Saturday, September 08, 2007


The Brand Mascot

Amitabh Bachchan Versus Gattu

By Harish Bijoor

Q: A company is identified to a large extent with their logos. Once they go about the change, how does this logo change the relationship with the consumer?

-Smriti Ranjan Gupta, Mumbai

A: Smriti, in most cases where the logo change has not been too drastic, and where a sensible and scientific process has been deployed in the logo change logic process, and where a decent Semiotics exercise has been used to test the logo before actually launching it, things work out fine.

In cases where
there is haste and where the typical gut-feel approach or the 'Nina test'
has been used (Nina test being the test of the logo, where I the CEO, take
the logo home and show it to my wife, who approves it by the way it looks),
there is normally a disaster.

Consumers emote with logos using a language that is entirely visual. The
emotive appeal that logos bring to the party is largely un-assessed by most
companies. This is a huge intangible that cannot be treated with casual

The visual language of appreciation is the strongest in a consumer. The
faculties that appreciate a brand involve all the six senses. The brand is
essentially a sensorial experience. The sense of sight, touch/feel, smell,
at times taste (both palate taste and 'visual taste'), and indeed smell,
decide the perception of a brand.

When you smell hot banana chips frying at
the street corner in Matunga, you are reminded of the very famous brand of
banana chips from the streets of Coimbatore, A1 Chips. A smell is enough for
recognition and emotive appeal. Just as the smell of a 'Joop' will tell you the
perfume and what it stands for, and just as a Davidoff Cool Waters is
essentially a brand recognition that emanates from just the smell of it for
a start on someone who has used it.

Of all these sensorial languages, the visual is the strongest. Most
consumers are most comfortable with visual language and logic. The
appreciation of the visual logic happens in nano seconds in the consumer
brain. A test we ran on this process a couple of years ago revealed that 65%
of all positive or negative comprehension of brands happened with visual
logic to the fore. All other sensorial issues contributed to the remaining

Insensitive and poorly engineered logo changes therefore affect consumers
drastically. Logo changes jolt consumers more than companies think they do.
Therefore the process needs to be a sensitively engineered one.

The first few steps in this exercise would involve very minimal changes
from an existing logo in use. It would also involve a very careful visual
testing process with the consumer. No personal judgment needs to come in
here. Your advertising agency cannot design your logo and defend it. The ad
agency can design the logo, but the defense must be a consumer defence.

After individual testing with large numbers of consumers, test the new logo in
the market as well. Do a pressure test in a media isolated market by
ensuring that the logo is actually put up in all possible formats,
hoardings, glow signs, pole kiosks, 2-D versions, 3-D versions, in-film
versions, on-pack or on product variations, etc.

And take your time with the change. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. The
equity of an old and established logo is too sensitive an issue to tamper

Q: What is the significance of a brand mascot? How does a mascot fit
into a company's strategy?
-Sharath Bailhongal, Bangalore

A: Sharath, a brand mascot is essentially a visual peg to a company or its brands. And visual pegs are important.

Remember for a fact that a consumer emotes with brands essentially at the
sensorial level.

The brand mascot essentially operates at this visual level. The mascot
becomes an essential associative element with the brand on tout. You
typically start associating the brand name, its color, its logo and most
certainly its promise, with the mascot in question.

Mascots over time emerge as integral parts of the brand identity kit. You
essentially identify the brand with a solus mascot. In many ways the mascot
is different from the celebrity who endorses brands. One of it is in the fact
that the mascot is a solus associative element, whereas in the case of an
Amitabh Bachchan you are not too sure if he is a Parker, a Zandu or an ICICI

Brand mascots are therefore loyal associative elements whereas celebrity
brand endorsers are highly promiscuous and flit from brand to brand, often
causing confusion.

A brand mascot has the ability to create a strong brand association in the minds of consumers and non-consumers alike. When you think of a Gattu, you
think Asian Paints, and when you thought Goody the tiger, you thought
Nerolac in the old days.

In many ways, the brand mascot is a mid-way device between the brand
logo (which is pretty inanimate, and mostly low on the emotion-score it can
elicit in consumers) and the totally alive brand endorser.

Q: Can customer loyalty be bought?
-Malini Parthasarathy, Mysore

Malini, yes, it can be....for a short while. Loyalty is essentially not permanent,
and this understanding and insight is important for the marketer to
swallow as a bitter pill.

Loyalty generation is a continuous exercise that demands proactive management
of the consumer and a forever-process of delight in place.

Harish Bijoor is a business strategy specialist and CEO, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.
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