Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

Over the years, I’ve created a number of company mascot designs. Of course not all companies need a corporate character, but many of today’s best-known brands use them to connect with customers in an engaging, memorable way. Think Tony the Tiger, Mr. Clean, the Michelin Man, the Pillsbury doughboy, the Geico gecko, and Speedy Alka-Seltzer (who recently came out of retirement after an absence of nearly 30 years).

What Makes a Good Company Mascot?

If a company decides that a mascot will add value to its brand, its leaders must determine what makes an effective corporate mascot. A mascot that embodies the spirit of the brand can be incredibly powerful, and you can make the most of that power with thoughtful design.

The process of designing a company mascot is similar to developing an organizational or company brand. The character must be appropriate to the industry, integrate into the broader corporate persona, and create a lasting, positive impression.

Geico’s gecko is a prime example. The little green guy helped to make the brand incredibly successful by positioning the company as a hip, quirky alternative to traditional insurance agencies. He’s been so effective that many companies — including Allstate, State Farm, and Progressive — have followed suit with their own offbeat, character-driven campaigns.

Case Studies: A Few Characters of My Own

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the mascots that I’ve developed (or in some cases redeveloped) over the years. As an illustrator, company mascots are some of my favorite projects — they let me combine left-brain strategy with right-brain creativity.

#1 Aunt Mid’s Produce

Aunt Mid’s Produce Company (now known as Riggio Distribution Company) was founded in 1948 as a Detroit-based wholesaler, re-packer, and retail processor of potatoes, lettuce, celery, tomatoes — and the product that started it all — spinach.

The company asked me to update its venerable matriarch, Aunt Mid. While the original Aunt Mid was full-figured, the revitalized Aunt Mid needed to shed significant poundage to appeal to a more health-conscious consumer. But because the company had substantial brand equity in the existing character, they needed to retain her retro-ish look and feel while updating the image. I also had to keep in mind that Aunt Mid’s logo is most often printed on plastic bags and containers, so the graphic had to be fairly simple and bold for reproduction purposes.

#2 PetEdge Zanies

Here are two characters I was asked to design for packaging and point-of-sale materials for a line of dog and cat toys. After 15 years, my little packaging mascots are still “alive,” appearing on product labels and displays “wherever fine pet toys are sold.”

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

#3 SchoolCare’s Nurse Rosy

SchoolCare LLC sought to increase early reading skills in young children using health-related materials, essentially killing two birds with one stone. When they contacted me, the organization had an existing mascot (Nurse Rosy), a kind and caring dog dressed as a nurse. After obtaining some venture backing, they needed to take their brand to the next level, so I was brought in to make Nurse Rosy look more presentable than the character they were using at the time. After redesigning the character, she appeared on an array of educational collateral, including safety posters, games, puzzles, newsletters, worksheets, and learning curricula.

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

Left: Original Nurse Rosy                             Right: My redesigned character

#4 Tata’s CAD Geek

I was hired to polish up another existing corporate mascot — this time for Tata Technologies. The corporate division we work for provides sales and training of Autodesk CAD rendering software to automotive and industrial designers. The CAD Geek was a character with the heart of a true nerd, complete with pocket protector. But the original character had little personality, and they only had a single pose that another agency had designed. After we got him in shape, he was a big hit with the engineers who comprised Tata’s end-users. Besides mouse pads, t-shirts, and associated tradeshow swag, the Geek even had his own blog that engineers turned to for answers to oft-asked questions about 3-D rendering. Eventually, I developed a whole gang of geeks called “Team Geek.”

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

CAD Geek and his pals (Team Geek)

#5 Java Jo

Java Jo — a company that developed frozen, sweetened coffee treats for mass-market sale — came to us to update their packaging. At the time, the half-dozen coffee bean characters they were using definitely weren’t working. I developed Java Jo as a single character to create a more uniform look and feel. The frosty treat was delicious, and sampling the product to get a “feel for the brand” was a great perk.

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

#6 Karmel Games

Karmel Games had great products aimed at the specialty toy market. In their time, the company won many industry awards for their brain-teasing games. After my company developed packaging for their first game (called “Nymble”), the owners liked the characters I’d developed so much that they became incorporated into all of their products.

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

#7 Got V Mail

Got V Mail (now called Grasshopper) is a rapidly growing Boston-based company that provides business-class phone services for young entrepreneurs who run their business from their mobile phones. I was hired to create their company mascot, “Gary,” who represented the everyman entrepreneur. Once Gary was finalized, he became the corporate spokesman in web animations, digital and print ads, and even appeared in ads in Time magazine. One cool aspect of the project was the 6-inch bendy character that we designed and was then manufactured as a company giveaway.

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

#8 Grasshopper

As I mentioned in #6, Got V Mail later changed its name to Grasshopper. Since they were happy with my original character, “Gary,” I was retained to develop their new mascot … “Gary.” But this Gary was to be a grasshopper, not a human. The video below shows (insect) Gary in a 30-second spot we developed for a DirecTV commercial.

#9 Get Movin’ Crew

Movin’ Max is the cheetah mascot for Get Movin’ Crew, a Michigan-based fundraising company that uses physical activity (student fun-runs and walks) to raise money for schools. One of the coolest aspects of this project was to see the cartoon mascot come to life in a costume. Now, Max appears at all the company’s events to engage with kids and pump up the fun.

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

#10 The Sportbot

One of our longstanding clients asked me to develop a mascot for a sports-oriented website. After developing the options of a gladiator and a robot, he selected the robot. We’ve now completed over a dozen poses of the Sportbot doing various activites.

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

Company Mascot Designs: Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)

#11 Macho Shorts

Macho the Gorilla is the character I developed for Macho Shorts, a line of men’s underwear. The customer demographic is college-age jocks to 30-something guys, so the client wanted a character that was hip, cool, and full of attitude. His image was used to make a bold, graphic clothing label. I managed to get an “M” worked into the brand mark within the glowing ash of Macho’s cigar.

 

What are your favorite (or least favorite) famous company mascots? Leave a comment and let me know!

 

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Give Your Brand a Face (or a Tail)
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