For today's #TBT post, I take the risk of going back several years – six to be exact. That's always dangerous given how quickly the media world has evolved since January, 2017 when this post first appeared – not to mention a global pandemic that has flipped our reality upside-down.
The topic? Station mascots, a significant part of radio marketing in the 80's and 90's that have been all but forgotten in recent years. But like a lot of things radio stations stopped doing, they still make a lot of sense today.
Yes, it's still a cold January in many American cities and towns. But pitchers and catchers report in less than three weeks, and spring will be here before we know it. As COVID subsides and warm weather activities take over, there's a lot to be said for capturing the public's attention in local markets by being visible. Yes, that's what mascots do.
For the NCAA men and women's basketball tournament last year, Nissan launched “Road 2.,” leveraging college and university mascots across the country for their campaign. Here's a :15 that was part of this series:
The TV commercial at the top of today's post for Coors Light is one of many current ads highlighting the humor, relatability, and cross generational appeal of mascots – not to mention they have the ability to cheer people up, make great shareable selfies, and remind us what it's like to be a kid again. – FJ
In the world of marketing and branding, mascots have always played a unique role. They can be corny and even kitschy, but they're often an effective way in which to humanize even the most mundane companies and organizations.
Sports has always been one of the biggest players in the mascot industry, whether on the college or pro level. And ESPN has picked up on that in a number of funny promos over the years. Most recently, former quarterback now spokesperson Peyton Manning plays the befuddled star in a humorous Papa John’s commercial that depicts a horse mascot war between the Colts’ Blue and the Broncos’ Miles, his two former teams.
When it comes to mascots, sports has always been a staple. For a more utilitarian vertical like grocery brands, mascots can humanize products that don’t often excite or inspire. And that’s why Borden’s brought Elsie the Cow back several years ago, and why B&G Foods is now returning the storied Jolly Green Giant to prominence.
B&G bought the business from General Mills, and now looks to jumpstart the brand by dusting off a mascot that first came to prominence nearly a century ago. But in 2017, there’s even more potential to effectively cultivate and grow a brand by using a lovable mascot.
The new version of the Jolly Green Giant has a multimedia campaign behind it. Socially, #TheGiantAwakens is the umbrella slogan of a campaign that covers just about everything, including an Instagram account, YouTube videos, and a Spotify playlist.
It is noteworthy how the mascot is the foundation of a marketing strategy designed to bring life to a legacy brand, along with multi-generational appeal so necessary for mass market products. The new Jolly Green Giant campaign serves as a reminder of how radio brands might benefit from the mascot strategy in myriad ways.
1. Mascots bring a tangible factor to radio brands.
I was part of several “Fox” campaigns for some of the early Classic Rock stations back in the ‘80s, including KCFX (Kansas City), WOFX (Cincinnati), and WRFX (Charlotte) to name a few. It was a former owner of those first two properties – Jay Hoker – who conceived the Fox mascot. He sensed that his stations would last a lot longer and be more memorable than competitors who were simply call letters and frequencies. And he was right. The three stations I mentioned are still on the air – in format and in leadership positions – 30+ years after their debut.
2. Stations with fun mascots develop a personality apart from the people on the air.
Like the “6th man” in basketball, a mascot brings a personality to stations – something that SiriusXM, Spotify, and Pandora simply don’t have. Even stations that don't have big morning shows or major daypart personalities, can benefit from that human touch and fun spirit a mascot can bring.
3. Mascots have the ability to connect with fans from many different generations, ethnicities, and walks of life.
From target listeners to their kids, these bigger-than-life representatives work on many different levels. They break down barriers and make radio brands more accessible. In the case of the aforementioned Classic Rock stations, it was essential to have broader appeal for a format that was unproven back then. Mascots help introduce stations to new audiences at events and promotions where people can meet them face to face.
4. Mascots get you noticed.
Whether with inflatables or merch, when mascots show up at events – especially agnostic ones like fairs and festivals – they can steal the scene, helping stations stand out in a memorable way. Given the ways in which brands compete against one another for attention, a station mascot can cut through the clutter. And from a sales standpoint, mascots can bring crowds to promotions, far better than the van, a card table, a prize wheel, and a tent.
5. B&G’s resurrection of the Jolly Green Giant is proof positive that with social sites, video, and other digital assets, mascots can provide brands with great presence in lots of places.
And they can generate sharing that one-dimensional radio brands might not receive. When you think about station mascots from the '80s, most were very one-dimensional. They were imaged on the air and showed up at events and promotions, but that's pretty much where it ended. Today, digital, social, mobile, and web tools make it possible to inject even more personality into these station symbols. Rethinking mascot parameters as B&G has done opens up entirely new possibilities.
The truth is, mascots test.
Solid radio brands can get even bigger with giant-sized strategies. Even green ones.
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