Counter-Print’s new book explores why mascots are “having a bit of a moment”

From cartoon people and sentient food to a host of sassy animals, Mascot spotlights some of the best brand characters of recent times

Monsieur Bibendum, Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant … the world of branding has a huge cast of characters and more are being added all the time. In Mascot, Counter-Print tries to get to the bottom of our fascination with them.

“Interest in the animal as a logo or symbol dates way back in the history of art, past Tony the Tiger or the Netto dog to the caves of Lascaux in France and the hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt,” writes Jon Dowling in the introduction. “Since the dawn of creation, we have painted, engraved and used animals as signs of astrology and magic, adopted their forms in our writing and symbols, alphabets, coats of arms, pennants and banners.”

It might feel a little lofty to draw dotted lines between a cornflake brand character and ancient forms of symbolism, but there’s no doubt that brands have done a great job using mascots to draw consumers in. As Dowling writes, “they create a physical face for customers”.

The book is divided up into themed chapters – people, food and drink, and animals (arguably the most charming section) – which highlight some of the best examples of company mascots. They’re largely drawn from more recent examples of branding and design, although Dowling does include a nice story about the origin of the alligator-turned-crocodile used by Lacoste, as well as Michelin’s Monsieur Bibendum, in the intro.

Mascot spans a huge range of sectors, including plant food, payroll software, burgers, coffee shops and pet food – which all goes to show how diverse these kinds of motifs are. There’s plenty of big visuals to pore over, as well as interviews discussing what it takes to create a successful mascot.

Alec Tear, creator of the Mean Tomato – a Mr Man-esque character designed for delivery service Gopuff – believes it comes down to a character’s ability to “move, gesture, react, interact and generally communicate on a level that a brand alone would not otherwise be able to”.

For Linda Jukic, who designed a very elegant elephant mascot for private wealth company Stanford Brown, it’s all about “recognisability, meaningfulness and personality”. “I believe they’ve stood the test of time as they tap into the timeless and universal language of storytelling and personality traits,” she says.

Mascot is published by Counter-Print;