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Creating brand characters as digital assets

18th May 2015

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Sheridan Maine

Question: What has a meerkat, a robot, a bunny, a knitted monkey and a couple of retro 70s runners got in common? The answer is that they are all company mascots or, rather, brand ambassadors. In this case, for Compare the Market, Confused.com?, Duracell, PG Tips and 118 118 respectively.

These ‘characters’ are not a version of the company logo or the company name and, in many cases, have no obvious connection to the product but it is almost as if every company has one. But why? The answer is simple – this further engages the consumer to their brand and further identifies the brand (and its values & services) to the consumer.

In the same way as the annoying ditties for Chicken Tonight and Shake ‘n’ Vac successfully got into people’s heads, using a character to promote a brand creates an association so much more powerful than a list of benefits. Just an image of a meerkat is enough these days to promote that brand. In fact, recent surveys have shown that eight times more people associate the company with the meerkat than they do with the actual company logo. Ask yourself, do you even know what the Compare The Market logo looks like?

Establishing a character as a company brand asset is no mean feat but, get it correct and the rewards from brand loyalty can be highly significant. Design Inc recently had this task as we recently introduced a new ‘character’ to one of our clients….

Sheridan Maine is a specialist finance & accountancy recruitment agency with several UK locations . They are a successful organisation and well-known within their field, however they felt their brand image did not truly reflect their dynamic personality. As such, they had contacted Design Inc for help.

In 2014, we built a new, dynamic website for the client (you can view the website here). The design style was created unique with the whole website based on the style of a busy shelving unit. Image-led navigation engaged the user to investigate the site further. One of the features on the shelf was a fish bowl with a static fish within.
For months, this was the only image that was not clickable, yet we knew it had the most potential. So we set to work bringing it to life.

The fish had already been created as a clownfish rather than a standard (and much less interesting) goldfish. The clownfish’s values mirrored the company values well:
  agile
  dynamic
  colourful
  unique
  graceful
  attractive
  likeable
  secure

The next part of the project was to work out what was the fish to be? Would it be a silent ambassador, a ‘spokescreature‘, a company mascot perhaps?  And after that, we needed to work out what would the fish do for the company.

Our solution was to simply ask ‘what does the company need’. If we could establish that, then the fish could potentially help to fill any such gap.
This could be more sales, better client relationships, more market credibility, stronger internal team relationships, CSR even?

We soon realised that the company needed to find a way to further help their candidate clients get the jobs they apply for. As such the fish was developed to become a ‘help tool’ to direct clients to the appropriate information. This is in much the same way that a paperclip cartoon was used by Microsoft Word many years ago. It was agreed that any time the fish appears in company collateral, this would be to highlight specific help, advice, comment, or where this help can be found.

Our next task was to work out in which ways the fish could actually help the candidate client on this website. So, we started working with the client to better understand which help ‘topics’ were needed. Over time, we were able to build a new help section for the website. This would include help pages such as FAQs, Tips n Tricks, Live Chat, Forums, Interview Skills, Social Media links, etc with the fish always pointing the way.

We still had three more stages in which we wanted to bring ‘life’ to the fish.

Firstly, the character needed a name and this was easy to come up with. We called it ‘Sheridan’ (and he was spawned in Maine, just in case you wanted to know).

Secondly, we needed to animate him and so changed the static image in the fishbowl to be a video of Sheridan constantly swimming around. This would catch the visitor’s eye leading them to click on the fishbowl first and foremost.

Thirdly, we had some promotional gifts created that would be provided to each client as a tool for future brand loyalty. Clownfish stressballs, inflatables, pens, mugs were all created.

So, if you are looking for your next job in finance or accountancy, follow the fish. Follow Sheridan.

To find out more about creating brand characters as digital assets please call 01784 410380