How to create a memorable brand mascot

Are brand characters old hat, or the perfect opportunity to connect? CR discusses what makes a great mascot with the creative teams behind O2’s Bubl robot and the AA’s Tukker the dog

The history of advertising is peppered with brand characters and mascots, and over the years we’ve seen a whole host of creatures parade across our screens. Some, such as the Duracell bunny and Tony the Tiger are old hands, while others, like the AA’s Tukker the dog, are still relative newcomers. And while some might not consider a brand mascot to be the cutting edge of creativity, there’s no doubting that they’re extremely effective when done properly.

For VCCP ECD Darren Bailes, creating O2’s Bubl robot mascot was the obvious solution to a difficult brief. “We were trying to tell people how good the network is, but the O2 network is invisible,” he explains. “It happens around us, a billion times a day, but no-one ever sees anything. Bubl was a way to make the invisible visible.”

According to Bailes – who was also on the team that launched PG Tips’ Monkey into the world – this is where mascots can really shine, bringing to life a particular aspect or personification of a brand. For companies struggling to convey an idea or concept, a brand character offers an immediate and relatable way to do so. But that doesn’t mean it’s the easy answer.

Although Bailes says the idea for Bubl immediately “felt right”, there was plenty to do to make it work. The robot had to be warm and charming with some technical edge, but not so much that the character became clinical. “We wanted it to be a little bit lo-fi and imperfect and small,” he explains. “It’s not scary, it’s just a friendly thing who’s there to help you, make sure you get your stuff done, catch the train, and simple things like that.”