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By Jennifer Peterson, Marketing Director, Galaxy Bright::

To be successful all brands need to elicit the proper emotional response for their target audience. It is no different for Brand Characters or Icons. What is different is that unlike a Brand, a successful Brand Character or Icon must have flaws, vulnerabilities, conflict (preferably self-inflicted) and connect the character to the brand in a deep, intrinsic way. They must also have human truth as revealed through their story that audiences can relate to.

Failure to have an emotional connection can lead to ineffective Icons. For example, the new and improved Colonel Sanders while dressing like and trying to act like its patrons is not emotionally connected to them. There are no common struggles, simply Colonel Sanders telling us he is cool.

A Brand Character or Icon can be properly developed to have that emotional connection. Here’s how:
1) Know its story.
2) Know its flaws, vulnerabilities, and sources of conflict (preferably self-inflicted).
3) Connect the character to the brand in a deep, intrinsic way.
4) Know what human truth is revealed throughout the story that audiences can relate to.
5) Know whom the Icon represents and have that representation be one of entertainment triumphs and failures.

What is the Story About? There must be a background story to all characters. Mr. Altschul makes a good point regarding Mickey Mouse. " The Disney/Kellogg's alliance-has foundered, largely because no one really knows what Mickey's story is."

On the other hand, GEICO’s website explains the origin of the Gecko. "Because the name 'GEICO' was often mispronounced, 'GEICO' became 'gecko,' and a quick doodle of a gecko appeared. The agency knew how powerful animals are in the world of advertising and a full illustration followed. The English voice that the gecko uses became another distinguishing factor. Even when the gecko becomes annoyed with people calling him at home on the phone by mistake when they are trying to reach GEICO, he always maintains his decorum in a very proper English tone."

They have a great story for the gecko. Namely he is an average English man mistaken via the phone for an insurance company. Eventually they hired him and now he represents an employee of GEICO (people just like you and me) who is looking out for the average guy not wanting to pay "too much" money for car insurance.

Who should a Character or Icon represent? As we've been discussing, the Character or Icon must be emotionally related to its audience. Therefore, It should not be an ambassador for the brand. It needs to have flaws, hopefully some inner conflict and most of all a way to elicit the emotional need for the product.

A great turn around story is M&M's. For about 40 years the M&M's were "Ambassadors" for the brand. They had "to project a flawless image and offend no one because every action will be perceived as a direct reflection of the brand. This constricts their ability to do anything legitimately entertaining or emotionally involving" - Brian Lanahan.

1966 – An Award-Winning Year became a reality when "instead they are seen as the embodiment of the brand proposition - 'colorful chocolate fun.'" - Brian Lanahan

Flaws and Truth can be found in AFLAC Commercials. No one is perfect. Insurance is a hassle, but "You really should attend to your insurance even if you would rather ignore the issue" - David Altshul

The moral of the story, just like making a TV Character, your Brand Character needs to be believable. So go ahead, do your research and determine if your Brand can benefit from a Brand Character or Icon. If the answer is yes, be sure to invest the time and effort into developing a successful Brand Character or Icon.