I think brand mascots are brilliant! They are a great way to engage with the public and are a very effective form of communications and marketing, b2c and b2b.
The best mascots are the ones that literally embody a brand and become a walking, talking representation of their business. If you saw an image of Mickey mouse and the Michelin man (Bibendum) shaking hands, you would instantly know that Michelin are making tyres for Disney, or Disney are making a film about Michelin, or that the two companies are definitely doing something together because those two mascots represent those two businesses.
So let me tell you about what goes into a good character design and hopefully you’ll pick up some helpful tips and tricks that you can do by yourself before going to a designer for the final mascot. Character design has a lot more to it than I can cover with a simple blog post, but my aim here is just to help you think about the right things before going into it.
In the film and television industry you start by answering key personality questions that have been written specifically to bring out defining personality traits, hobbies and factors that build a well-rounded character. It's no different when designing corporate mascots, at least not with the best ones. I recommend you grab a cup of coffee and take yourself through these character-defining questions (provided by our industry friend and mentor Ed Hooks http://www.edhooks.com/) to work out who your mascot is and how he behaves. This is a process that requires creativity, so take your time, have fun and enjoy the task! You can see the questions below, filled out about our own character mascot, Ime:
Physical Attributes: Blue, Square head, fully plasticine.
Defence Mechanisms: Can change shape
Lifespan: 150 years
Diet: Pot Noodles, Coke, Crisps, Chocolate
Physical Health: Good, occasional cold
Procreation: Mixing plasticine with a significant other. Offspring are sculpted then brought to life.
Relatives: Aunts, Uncles, Mum, Dad, Siblings (all back on his own planet)
Sense of Humour: Physical Humour
Goals: To be a superhero
Intelligence: Good with art, bad with maths. Practical guy, not academic
Education: First school, Communications Apprenticeship
Relationship to the business: Adopted by founders
Source of income, Livelihood, Industry: Lives at C&W where he is fed and taken care of.
Normally, you would write paragraphs for each heading, but even after answering those questions quickly, you should have more of a picture in your head now of who your mascot is, what their personality's like and how they would react to, or approach, different scenarios. For example, how would your mascot approach a video advert job? Is he confident in front of the camera like Mazuma mobile is? Or does he get distracted easily and cause trouble like Aleksandr. meerkat? Remember your mascot can change as time goes by, this is just a foundation, a starting point.
Sometimes companies play mascots safely and always deliver things professionally (to reflect well on their business). Other times mascots can be a little crazy and leave an equally important, memorable first impression (‘The Animal‘ pepperami comes to mind!).
It's important to research what others around you are doing, particularly competitors. You're lucky because very few businesses have a good mascot, so just having a character mascot at all will help you stand out.
If one of your competitors does have a mascot, great! You have something you can criticise! What do you like about it? What would you change? And are they making the most it? How does it work in conjunction with their brand?
Now that you know your mascot's personality and you know what others are doing around you, it's safe to start drawing (omg drawing?!). Look at your character's personality sheet and draw them doing the things you've alluded to. If you said he likes fishing, draw him fishing. If you said he is a wimp, draw him getting shocked by something silly.
Draw them with the company logo close to hand, because the mascot will need to work hand-in-hand with it. As your drawing keep asking yourself, with a little polish, would this character work for your brand? And a final few tips - Keep the design simple and remember it needs to be visible when it's scaled down for use in the corner of a web page or letterhead. It's important to start colouring your character in sooner rather than later, so you can determine whether your brand colours work with the design or not.
I know some people are not natural drawers, but you can still make a rough impression and do at least 50% of the thinking work before you pass the baton onto a professional. They will appreciate the work you've come to the table with because it makes their lives easier and it enables you to set the stage for the creation of your company mascot.