Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Using brand mascots on Twitter

Cartoon characters on Twitter - Manchester SEO blog
Using Twitter to raise a company's online profile is not uncommon. Thousands of organisations try to increase their consumer base through the social media service and, suffice it to say, some do it better than others.

Interestingly though, some businesses are beginning to use fictional creations to deliver their message on Twitter. Cartoon characters, plastic models and furry meerkats have all been used to promote a company.

Here, Manchester SEO Blog examines why this approach may offer a greater appeal to users than the traditional corporate tweets of companies such as Asda.

Corporate identity

Massive organisations normally use a single account to deliver their social media strategy. Many tweet from a single spokesperson or branded feed in order to transmit their respective message.

Some companies choose to tweet through their brand's mascot. This is a sensible move – a mascot is not only recognisable, but it also immediately conveys the culture and values of an organisation.

There are a selection of Twitter accounts which take this approach, most notably's feed from its figurehead Jeeves the butler.

Jeeves the buter - Manchester SEO blog
Despite his recent sabbatical, Jeeves remains one of the most recognisable mascots of recent years.

The account, a mix of conversational and promotional tweets, speaks for the entire company. By adopting the character for its social media strategy, Ask provides consumers with information and news through a friendly and recognisable face.

This is opposed to a blanket company account which may not provoke the same level of user reaction.

Opportunity for innovation

Fictional accounts have a greater scope for flexibility than those written from a corporate viewpoint. @NatHistoryWhale is a wonderful example of how a profile can bend the established rules of social media marketing for commercial gain.

National History Museum - Manchester SEO blog
The account is hosted by the life-sized model of a whale which hangs from the ceiling of New York's National History Museum. The beast, as you can imagine from someone subjected to screaming children 24-7, is cranky, cynical and occasionally very mean. Think Grumpy Old Men meets Free Willy. This tone comes across in the regular tweets posted on the account. Some choice examples include:

  • Gosh, you all look so haggard, it must be really hot outside today.
  • Do you have any idea how many times I've seen the video they show in here?
  • This one Walrus in the glass case to my left-- he kinda looks like he's dead.
This campaign highlights how fictional accounts can offer an opportunity for innovation – a mascot provides metaphorical distance between a brand and a social media campaign. This whale can be as mean and sarcastic as it likes without damaging the company.

It's also exceptionally more entertaining.

Covert promotion

Chelsea Football Club gives the club's megatron-sized fan base a Twitter feed from Stamford the Lion; the furry mascot who can normally be seen dancing on the pitch like a drunk uncle prior to kick off.

Stamford the lion - Manchester SEO blog
A combination of exclusive news and interviews and 140 match commentary, the account offers users an enthusiastic and authentic set of tweets from the ultimate Chelsea fan.

By using a mascot, the Chelsea marketing department can shamelessly self-promote its brand without being accused of spam or clumsy sales tactics. Stamford is seen a supporter, rather than a marketing tool. He's enthusiastic because he's a dedicated member of the club. Nothing more.

User interaction

Just as Twitter allows users to communicate with companies, it also gives individuals the opportunity to chat with their favourite fiction characters.

The Compare The Market mascot, Aleksandr Orlov, is one of the more famous characters on Twitter. Humorously posing as an Eastern-European meerkat, the Twitter feed regularly interacts with users in order to promote the sub-brand (Compare The and its parent company.

This creative approach has proved to be very popular with consumers (and the bank balance for the insurance site).

Compare The Meerkat - Manchester SEO blog
This consumer interaction has also been used for promotion of television programmes. The American drama Castle – not yet broadcast in the UK – runs a Twitter feed for its main character, Richard Castle. The account follows the life of Castle away from the cameras, providing hype and publicity for the show without the need for conventional marketing campaigns.

More recently, a series of Twitter accounts from the characters of the AMC drama Mad Men proved to be very successful in raising the profile of the programme. Tweets and replies from the employees of the fictional 1950s advertising firm were exceptionally popular with fans of the show.

While the accounts were later revealed to be fake and unauthorised by the network, the campaigns' (for lack of a better word) success demonstrated the willingness of users to interact with fictional characters.

1 comment:

  1. Really interesting post. My only problem with using mascots is that you lose the oppurtunity to show an individual, personal side to your company.

    Though interacting with a blue whale is obviously going to appeal to people, it's very easy for mascots to just become another corporate arm. I like the way Best Buy do it - they have @twelpforce to answer customer service issues . They describe themselves as 'a collective force of technology pros' and they manage to keep the personal touch.