HubSpot: How to Design a Character for Your Brand

Have you ever searched for stock image websites and thought, None of them really represent my brand?

It can be difficult to stand out using the same cheesy imagery as everyone else, but creating a unique brand character can help steer you away from the pack.

A brand character, or mascot, is the visual representation and ambassador of your brand. It can be an illustration, an inanimate object, a person, an animal or any other character of your choice.

This is different from brand personality, which refers to the emotional and behavioral characteristics attributed to your brand that help you resonate with customers.

Below, we’ll explore the benefits of using a branded persona and how to create your own.

Pros and cons of using a brand persona

Branded personas can fulfill a variety of uses for your business. Here are some advantages of using them:

  • Improve communication: Pictures can often convey feelings and communicate messages to your audience faster and more effectively than words. Some even aim to establish an emotional connection with the viewer. It is a popular strategy for marketing products to children such as cereals and toys.
  • Brand recognition: Some characters are so deeply rooted in popular culture that they become inseparable from the brand, like Ronald McDonald or the M&M Spokescandies. Customers will be able to identify your product or service without the brand ever being mentioned.
  • Viral Marketing Potential: If your brand persona is eye-catching and compelling, there’s a chance they’ll take off on social media. Take the Krojis characters from Kroger, which spawned several memes and parody videos shortly after launch.

The original commercial (pictured above) used the song “Low” by Flo Rida to advertise their “Lower Than Low” campaign. Soon people were making their own versions, like this one.

However, using a brand persona may not be the best choice for all businesses. Here are some drawbacks:

  • May not be suitable for your business model: For certain products such as fitness equipment, makeup or any other product intended to modify the physical appearance of the customer, the use of a brand person is less effective. Customers will want to see a real person in the ad material as proof that it works.
  • Brand disconnection: While good branded personas can help customers recognize your brand, a bad one can have the opposite effect. The character may be recognizable, but customers have no idea what your business is doing. In the worst case scenario, the character could be inflammatory or not age well like the recent rebranding of Aunt Jemima’s pancake products.
  • Can be expensive: If you don’t create the brand logo in-house, hiring an outside designer or agency can be expensive, especially if your business is just starting out.

Once you’ve decided that it would be beneficial to have a branded persona, you can begin the fun part – creating your own.

Create your own brand persona

Henneke Duistermaat, writer and creator of Enchanting Marketing, found it easier to reflect her true branding, connect with her audience, and make her business memorable by hand-drawing her brand persona, Henrietta. Henrietta is a cartoon character who epitomizes enchanting marketing better than any stock photo.

Take a look at the infographic below, featuring Henneke’s “alter ego” Henrietta, for inspiration to create designs for your business that will captivate and engage your audience.

While you can’t choose to draw your own character like Henneke, you can take some of his thought process when creating your own. Think about:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?

  • How does this problem make your customers feel?

  • What solution do you suggest?

  • What attributes do you want the character to convey?

  • Where will you use this character? On the physical product, website design, or customer service chat box?

Examples of brand characters

Brand characters are not a unique marketing tool. You can choose cartoon characters like Henneke, anthropomorphized animals or objects, or even fictional characters. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve handpicked a variety of signature characters to let your creativity run wild.

1. Flo from Progressive

Flo is a prime example of how effective a fictional person is as a brand character. She is very recognizable and always communicates the advantages of using Progressive over other insurance companies. Flo has more than 68,000 subscribers on Twitter, demonstrating the character’s reach beyond traditional advertisements.

2. GEICO’s Gecko

Not to be outdone, the eccentric gecko character from insurance company GEICO also has his own followers. Is he Australian or British? No one knows for sure, but we do know we can save on auto insurance by switching to GEICO because this gecko brand character is incredibly good at what he does. To boost the character’s popularity, GEICO even facilitates Q&A with him via social media, getting audiences to engage with the brand in fun ways.

3. Reddit Snoo

Reddit’s alien Snoo character can be found on their website and even has their own discussion thread. The genderless and colorless alien came to represent not only the company, but also its target audience: everyone. Reddit is for everyone and serves as a forum where users from all walks of life can share news, hobbies, other types of content, and lead discussions on just about any topic. It’s the Internet hub for “everyday people” (plus aliens of course), and Snoo reflects that.

4. Twitter Larry the bird

It seems fitting that a site named Twitter chooses a bird for its branding character. Larry the Bird was named after the great basketball player Larry Bird, as co-founder Biz Stone is a Celtics fan. Although small, this little blue bird is synonymous with Twitter without having to see the brand’s name spelled out.

It is versatile and used not only for website branding but also seamlessly in the corner of every individual’s tweet. It’s ubiquitous but not overwhelming.

Include a brand person in your marketing plan

Including a brand persona in your marketing materials should be based on both market research and the needs of your target audience. They aim to improve the user experience and simplify communication between the brand and its customers.

This article was originally published on August 17, 2018 and has been updated for completeness.

Originally posted Jan 3, 2022, 7:00:00 AM, updated Jan 03, 2022

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