When you use a brand character, that brand character should be the personality of your company plus perhaps some feelings or attractions that you want to project. These feelings/images may be a bit nuanced to be in the written version of your brand promise. This may be a great opportunity to say “hire cartoonist!”
Some people are ready to count brand characters out because they are “old-fashioned.” Actually they are very old as far as advertising goes. If you are willing for a bit of a stretch, the use of icons and idols as talismans of power go back much further than that.
But that doesn’t mean that icons or characters have lost their usefulness. Brand characters have stood the test of time and are just as useful and powerful today as when they were first introduced. The Michelin tire man and the Maytag repairman are absolutely fantastic in connecting the personality and promise of their respective company, its product and the desires of their customer.
This notion of connecting the personality/promise of a company with their product surfaced when I was asked to help make a bowling shirt. The Scott County Kentucky bowling team won the 2012 state championship. Needless to say, folks in Scott County thought there should be something commemorative, and they approached a local company to create a shirt.
The school’s logo is the cardinal and it is incredibly close in looks to the University of Louisville Cardinal mascot. Mascots are great, especially in terms of establishing on ongoing brand personality. If that mascot is repeatedly associated with positive experiences, the mascot becomes iconic for that set of memories. Reinforced long enough, the familiar becomes the historic and can even move on to veneration. Scott county has a long, and well loved sports tradition.
My job was to associate that tradition (a personality actually) with an emerging sport that had done extremely well for it’s first year out. My thought was that two things were important, (1) a fresh take on typical bowling ephemera (2) a connection with the school’s logo, (and hence their tradition), without being seen as “redoing the logo.”
Rather than repeat the kitsch solution of bowling ball through bowling pins I pushed the concept of connecting a well-established logo with the emerging sport of bowling at Scott County High. The snarling look on Scott County’s cardinal was the brand personality I brought across. The notion of aggressive as a visual adjective morphed into a bowling ball face
The inspiration for this solution came from another standing tradition. Artists have been wrapping faces and other designs around custom-painted bowling balls for some time, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to source this as an idea. As I worked with the concept, it occurred to me that the crest of the cardinal could simply be the motion lines.
Somebody will point out that the type came from one of the more ubiquitous elements of the bowling genre, beer. I will stipulate to two things. First, I don’t want to encourage under-aged drinking. Second, its hard to go wrong in a bowling design to pick a font with “brew” or “beer” as part of its title. For me, its a tasteful use of a well understood type style that evokes the feeling of bowling without being salacious.