How to Design a Mascot

McDonalds+Edit

This week the corporate mascot world was startled by the introduction of McDonald’s new mascot, “Happy.” The public was not humming Pharrel as they embraced the new icon. Rather they bashed it in standard social media terms as “nightmare fuel” and dubbing it “the happy meal that will eat your soul.” This is on the heels of revamping Ronald McDonald’s look to be hipper. With numerous characters with decades of brand equity, “Happy” doesn’t seem to make much sense. It can be assumed that the company thought “it worked in France!”

In the same week Chicago based Ferrara Candy company decided to revamp their iconic Lemonhead character and let him “grow up” into a blue eyed 22 year old who loves taking selfies. The giant blue BLINKING eyes, human body, and human tuft of hair give it a truly terrifying look. The team behind the Twitter account seems to acknowledge this and invoke a @TacoBell and @Skittles type of voice, so Lemon Chucky, I mean Head, might actually work as an ad campaign (just not as a costume!)

On one hand you can argue that the mascots are a success due to their social media/viral status. However I don’t think these were intended to be short term stunts but rather long term brand investments.

Here’s my advice when it comes to designing a mascot: HIRE A MASCOT DESIGN COMPANY!!!   I’m positive both of these characters were imaged by an ad agency/marketing firm complete with dozens of focus groups, meetings, meetings about meetings, and power point presentations. I own a mascot company, I make mascots. I would not be able to create and execute a complete advertising campaign (complete with media buys) for your company, so why would you expect an ad agency to know what works best for mascot design? An ad agency has various talented people but a graphic designer is no substitute for an experienced mascot design firm.  No agency has a “mascot engineer” who knows the best materials to use or what will/won’t translate from a drawing to a costume. A mascot company will also have a vast knowledge of past and present mascot designs and what did/didn’t work about them and help minimize the risk involved in launching a new character.

We recently produced a mascot costume that was designed by a very talented branding firm. They create great logos, however when we looked at their mascot design, we knew it would not work as drawn, and knew that some features would draw criticism. We took their artwork and merged it with our own to produce a unique performer friendly costume. While other new mascots who were introduced at the time got slammed, ours was the only one to receive positive feedback. It’s because WE KNOW MASCOTS.

A major university was in the process of reintroducing a mascot after several years and called for my feedback. I looked over their proposed designs, looked into their history, read what the student body was saying online, and said only one of the designs even had a chance of getting approved. It was the one closest to their former mascot that was axed for political correctness. I never heard back from them, but awhile later read that they had scrapped the entire idea of a new mascot and are going mascot less. They spent over $50,000 in research to come up with a conclusion I made in 30 minutes.

When we  begin the mascot design process I start off by talking to the team/company and finding what their needs are. How will the mascot be used (sports games, school shows, trade shows, outdoors/indoors, etc.)? What is more important for this character brand recognition or mobility/fun? Who will be wearing the costume? I then take any logos or artwork they have an come up with several pencil sketches of possibilities. The client gives feedback and I make the changes. Once the pencil sketch is approved I then create a color proof that we build the costume off of.

custom mascot costumecolor copy

So the next time you’re looking to introduce a new mascot, save yourself the inevitable “Poochie” references when you present a focus group created mascot and hire an experienced mascot design firm (Like AMAZING!! Mascots.)

In my next post I will elaborate on “How To Order a Mascot Costume” to educate potential mascot buyers what to look for and what to avoid.

 

Stay fuzzy my friends~ Kelly

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About Kelly Frank

Kelly Frank has been designing and performing as professional sports mascots since 1998. She spent 5 seasons as "Raymond" of the Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) and parts of three seasons as "Thunderbug" for the Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL). She has also performed as a mascot for the WNBA, Major League Soccer, Arena Football, NCAA Basketball, and minor league baseball. She incorporated AMAZING!! Mascots, Inc in 2007 to provide unique, performer friendly, custom mascot costumes. "Stay fuzzy my friends."

Posted on May 21, 2014, in amazing mascots, baseball mascots, bulldog mascot costume, costume ideas, costumed characters Chicago, custom costume, custom mascot costumes, eagle mascot costume, high school mascots, houston mascots, how to be a baseball mascot, how to be a mascot, how to clean mascot costume, how to find a mascot performer, how to perform as a mascot, how to wear mascot costume, lion mascot costume, mascot advice, mascot costumes, mascot costumes Chicago, mascot design, mascot performers, mascots, MLB mascots, NHL mascots, professional mascot, school mascot, tiger mascot costume, university mascots, wearing a mascot costume, what is a mascot and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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