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Fictional or Branded: Which Campaign Characters Get More Attention?



Born Licensing’s Director of Business Development, Asia Pacific Stephanie Candiloro talks about using famous fictional characters in advertising for instant recognition and relevance

Fictional or Branded: Which Campaign Characters Get More Attention?

Most Aussies would be able to recognise Louie the Fly, the Energiser Bunny and there might even be a couple of us who have a soft spot for the cute, chubby Michelin man. In a competitive market, characters can offer emotion and a way to ‘humanise’ a corporation or product. Characters create brand salience and a reason to remember your ad and brand.

So should brand characters be created from scratch or should agencies leverage an existing fictional character? 

Here’s why including famous fictional characters that your target market is already familiar with, could be the answer.

When we look at the stats, who are the real identities that stay in the hearts of the audience? In a recent IPSOS MORI study commissioned by Born Licensing,  Australians were asked to select characters that would capture their attention in an advertisement out of a line-up of fictional characters and brand characters. 

Fictional characters were chosen 61% of the time, while brand characters were only chosen 39% of the time.

The survey was across a multi-generational group to determine the characters with the most appeal.

The stats say Aussie ad-watchers prefer a famous character to a branded one, but why else could using pre-existing fictional characters benefit? 

Well, a lot of famous fictional characters manage to offer two things that branded characters need to work a lot harder for: instant recognition and nostalgia. 

Shaping up to be the megatrend of the 2020s, nostalgia has given comfort to a post-lockdown audience.

You might have heard of the rise of the ‘kidult’ market, not just in the toy industry, but also getting attention from entertainment and corporate brands too. The ‘kidult’ market is less to do with an age group, and more an attitude and feeling of nostalgia, which are common for everyone.

There are many popular characters like Transformers, Sponge-Bob, James Bond, Shrek, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that appeal to multiple generations. 

In fact, in the same IPSOS MORI survey, we found that all the aforementioned popular fictional characters scored higher in preference than Ronald McDonald and other more well-known advertising branded characters such as Yo-Go Gorilla, Tony the Tiger, The Duracell Bunny, Meerkats Aleksandr and Sergei and even Louie the Fly. 

While Louie the Fly might be instantly recognisable now, it’s been around for 69 years or 25,174 days longer than the average fly. All those years in the public eye certainly evokes nostalgia for many generations, but is it possible to model that same success today with a branded character? 

When Bryce Courtenay’s creation, Louie the Fly, graced our screens for the first time in 1953, Australian television was in its infancy. Australian households with a television only had access to a couple of channels. Australia’s favourite fly would have been one of the first branded characters that a whole generation of young children grew up with. 

The effectiveness of Louie as an advertising tool for Mortein relies heavily on the nostalgia generated amongst early TV audiences. Achieving the same with a younger crowd today relies on using characters that people are already familiar with and have already established connections with. Rights holders’ brands and creative studio departments have already done that heavy lifting.

Despite the appeal to create your very own Louie-like mascot, in the days of YouTube, Netflix and TikTok, audiences are looking to respond to a strong character in which they have already invested. Characters we already know, like Cookie Monster, or even Marty McFly, have a deep and powerful connection to their audiences, having spent decades winning over hearts all around the world. If you’re looking for a mascot to inspire an audience towards your brand, fictional characters won’t let you down.

Stephanie Candiloro


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Born Licensing, Wed, 14 Sep 2022 02:47:51 GMT