Spokes-Characters, Speak to Me!

January 6, 2011 - 12:43 pm 20 Comments

Jingles used to be the trend keeping a brand obnoxiously stuck in your head.  “We want meow mix, we want meow mix, meow meow meow meow meow meow meow.” And while that still holds true today (see any FreeCreditReport.com commercial for an annoying example), it seems that Spokes-Characters are a new trend that’s sticking.  From Six Flag’s suspender wearing, old man Mr. Six to Orbit’s clean lady, they’re popping up everywhere.

Orbit's Clean Lady, Progressive's Flo, and Old Spice's "The Man"

And what’s most interesting isn’t that marketing agencies are targeting humorous and unique characters, but that the characters are gaining more awareness than the brands themselves.  Flo, the Progressive girl, has nearly 2.5 million friends on Facebook while Progressive the service barely scrapes past 20,000.  The Geico Gecko has nearly 150,000 fans while Geico the service has only about 93,000.  How’s that for outshining your boss?

And Facebook isn’t the only measure of greatness for our beloved characters.  Old Spice’s “The Man,” Isaiah Mustafa, went from being a behind the scenes NFL bencher to a 2010 star.  After premiering his commercial during the Superbowl last year, Isaiah made appearances on Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, and a ton of other shows.  And, to round the year off, he was also cast in a Jennifer Aniston flick.  A similar success came to the Geico Cavemen who struck so well with comedic viewers that ABC gave them their own series Cavemen.

These characters, when created with the right mix of humor, irony, and uniqueness, are a company’s pipe dream.  Never mind having the characters take on a life of their own, like our friend “The Man,” but what better way to bring on a lifetime of free publicity than to say that your company discovered a star?  It’s like Calvin Klein being able to claim they launched Brooke Shields.

Maybe Spada’s next move should be a talent department…

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