Because of recent trends in fast food commercials, a consumer at any age could recognize Colonel Sanders and his fried chicken.

Multiple brands have brought back old mascots and faces in recent marketing. However, what makes this tactic effective and why are brands bringing the oldies back?

In a recent Public Relations Tactics article, Greg Beaubien addresses the question of revived brand mascots. The reason he cites for bringing back an old face is authenticity.

Courtesy of The Today Show

Courtesy of The Today Show

In a Boston Consulting Group survey on what brands can do to capture their interest, baby boomers and millennials weren’t so different in their responses. Baby boomers listed “be authentic” third, after standing behind their products and rewarding loyalty. Millennials also valued authenticity, ranking it second after rewarding loyalty. Authenticity is valued by both of these generations, but how can brands achieve this?

One way brands have attempted to remain authentic is by returning to their roots.  The article quotes Allen Adamson, chairman of brand consulting firm Landor, saying that because in today’s market brands are harder to differentiate, authenticity has become increasingly more important. Brand authenticity creates brand loyalty. Unfortunately for newer brands, they can’t always afford to place an image to their products and thus resort to social media. However, Adamson points out that characters aren’t built through social media.

But authenticity isn’t the only reason familiar brand mascots are effective, they are also personal. Ann Wylie goes on in her article, “Paint the Schnauzer,” to discuss the importance of personalizing ideas and making consumers visualize the abstract. For example, she discusses an article by William H. Broad about the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge:

“The span—at the time the world’s third-longest suspension bridge—crossed a strait of the Puget Sound near Tacoma, Wash. A few months after its opening, high winds caused the bridge to fail in a roar of twisted metal and shattered concrete. No one died. The only fatality was a black cocker spaniel named Tubby.”

The reason this paragraph is effective is because Tubby’s death is personalized. The death of this dog would be a lot less important and effective to the reader if it wasn’t authentic and personal to them. By describing the dog as a “black cocker spaniel named Tubby” readers can visualize and therefore empathize.

The same goes for brand authenticity. By making a brand real and personal to the readers, through familiar characters and faces rather than general tweets, readers can identify. When you see the image of Colonel Sanders every time you see an ad for KFC, he becomes a familiar face. Authenticity provides the comfort of familiarity and seeing a classic brand mascot is like coming home: it’s comfortable, familiar, and never gets old.

Stay tuned…



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