Thursday, April 17, 2014

There’s even a popularity contest for spokescharacters

Someone over at Forbes had nothing better to do with their time than to get E-Poll Market Research to figure out which “spokescharacters” are the most popular. (Hey, it takes a time waster to know a time waster.)

Anyway, E-Poll is best known – that is, it would be best known, if they were known at all – for its celebrity rating service, which I guess is there so that marketers won’t sign up a celebrity spokesperson, only to realize that people detest him. (I mean, who wants to get stuck with Justin Bieber representin’ for them, when they really should have gone with Justin Timberlake?)

As Justin B., Lindsay Lohan, and untold others have amply demonstrated over the years, having a celebrity front for you – unless it’s someone 100% guaranteed for sweetness and light, like Jennifer Garner – can really backfire.

Which is why spokescharacters are so much the safer choice. Tony the Tiger is not going to get wasted and drag race and/or urinate on his neighbor’s front lawn. As the man says:

“Spokescharacters can be a very safe and memorable way to represent a brand as they won’t end up in jail or the tabloids and they won’t Tweet something inappropriate,” ” says Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research.” The fact that they never age allows them to appeal to many different age groups and provides the marketing nirvana of ‘cradle to grave’ branding.” (Source: Forbes)

I don’t know how much we can trust E-Poll. I’m a tad bit suspicious, given that one of the little fast facts on their home page claims that “one-quarter of 16-34 year olds plan to purchase a Toyota or a Honda in the next year.” Even if I were a marketer at Toyota or Honda – make that especially if I were a marketer at Toyota or Honda – I wouldn’t be all that excited about this, as it sounds so obviously BS-y. Maybe one-quarter of 16-34 year olds who a) participated in our unscientific poll, and b) say they’re going to be a car next year, for whatever reason said they’d be buying a Toyota or a Honda.

But. I. Digress.

It’s all about the ranking of the spokescharacters.

First place is occupied by the Budweiser Clydesdales, and I have to agree with this one. I am a complete and utter sucker for an ad using a Clydesdale. Not that this translates into my actually purchasing a Budweiser. Still, those Clydesdale ads: the soppier and more sentimental, the better. Throw in a Clydesdale baby and/or a dog, and I’m there.

Met Life’s Snoopy is in the second spot, which is a nice nod to tradition. And it’s interesting that the first two spots are occupied by silent spokescharacters. (Does this make them non-spokescharacters?)

Insurance grabs the next two spots: Allstate’s Mayhem – one of two spokescharacters on the list that’s actually a human – is in third. Well, E-Poll never asked me, because I heartily dislike this campaign. (I was going to say “despise”, but it really does seem excessive to “despise” an ad campaign, doesn’t it?) But this is just me, apparently:

Allstate was ranked by Facebook to be in its top five brands globally, and the Mayhem page has 1.8 million fans.

Geico’s Humpday Camel comes in fourth. Not wild about this ad, but, in general, I find much about Geico irritating, including the Geico gecko and the Geico pig. Perhaps they would be less irritating if, like Snoopy and the Clydesdales, they didn’t give voice to their spokescharacter-ness.

Believe it or not, a real oldie but goodie places fifth: Smokey the Bear. I wasn’t even aware that this icon of my childhood – Only YOU can prevent forest fires – was still in play.

Shamu, who fronts for Seaworld, is next, followed by the Coca Cola Polar Bear. Awwww, those coca-bears are awful cute, but I pretty much resent the fact that Coke went after Worcester’s own Polar Beverage, which – as the name implies – has had a polar bear as its spokescharacter since time immemorial. And, by the way, Polar sodas are way-far better than anything that Coke has to offer. I highly recommend the Orange Dry and the Cape Cod Cranberry Dry.

The talking M&M’s placed eighth. Is it just me, or is there something vaguely obscene about these guys?

The E-Trade Baby – who I just love – comes in ninth, but he’s being replaced, I’m afraid.

And speaking about vaguely obscene, there’s the Pillsbury Doughboy rounding out the Top Ten.

All this got me thinking about the spokescharacters Reddy_Kilowatt_with_wall_outlet_poseof yesteryear: Speedy Alka-Seltzer, all those cereal spokescharacters, Chiquita Banana (is “she” still around), and my personal favorite, Reddy Kilowatt.

Mayhem? Humpday Camel? They sure don’t make spokescharacters like they used to.

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