A metaphor is defined as “an object, activity, or idea that is used as a symbol of something else.” Metaphors are everywhere in the world of advertising, frequently seen in the form of a spokescharacter. A well-chosen metaphor can significantly impact an ad’s motivational power as a brand derives meaning from the spokescharacter used to represent it.
Fundamentally, advertising researchers retrieve brand memories from the mind of a consumer through two different ways—recall and recognition. It’s the difference between recalling a person’s name or recognizing the face of someone you met before. Of the two, recognition goes deeper, into the non-verbal, more primitive parts of the brain. As it relates to spokescharacters, a recognizable one works to personify the brand, providing meaning and a stronger relationship with the brand in the mind of the consumer. For example, Tony the Tiger can evoke many more positive associations than simply reading, “Frosted Flakes.” Or, when trying to remember which cake mix to buy, visions of the cute little Dough Boy may be more quickly retrieved than the name, Pillsbury.
The question then becomes how can a brand effectively use a spokescharacter in advertising?
Spokescharacter as the brand personified:
Spokescharacters used to personify the brand embody the most important attributes for their brands. Their job is to primarily reinforce these attributes and give the brand a face to go along with the name.
Apple brought its hip, creative persona to life by using Justin Long as the “cool” Mac character. Apple further enhanced these perceptions when pairing Long with his foil, the nerdy, stiff and always defeated PC. As Seth Stevenson at Slate wrote, “Would you rather be the laid-back dude or the portly old dweeb?”
Confident, cool, forward-thinking Apple chose the right representation of its brand with Long who personifies these feelings.
Spokescharacter used to augment the brand image:
They can also bring something new to the brand (personality, perception, etc.) that did not previously exist in the minds of consumers.
Until Isaiah Mustafa was introduced in 2010, the Old Spice name had conjured up images of the clipper ship, old sailors and your grandfather’s dresser. The brand had been fighting growing competition and perceptions of the brand as dated, and old-fashioned. The new spokescharacter brought youth and humor to Old Spice, resulting in a 107% increase in sales.
When thinking about using a spokescharacter either to bring your brand’s personality to life or to augment your image, ask yourself:
1. What is your brand’s personality?
What values do you consider to make up the ideal company in your category and how does your brand compare?
Next, jot down all of the words that might be used to describe your brand’s current personality. Are these the words that have always been used or were you seen differently in the past than you are now? Are you hoping to augment your brand’s personality? If so, who would you like your brand to “be”?
2. What is your spokescharacter’s personality?
Focus on the personality characteristics your spokescharacter brings to your brand. Are these characteristics that your brand and the character share or in what ways do they differ? How can your spokescharacter bring your brand closer to the ideal?
3. Who is your target audience?
Truly understanding your target audience is paramount in selecting the best brand representative. Christopher Walken may be the right choice for Kia motors, but may turn off those thinking of taking a Disney Cruise. Understanding which consumers are most open to your message and which spokescharacter would best speak their language is key to a successful campaign.
Selecting a spokescharacter to represent your brand can be a nerve-racking proposition, but with the right partnership, can be one of the wisest investments your brand can make.
Which “spokescharacters” have you seen that truly embody a brand?” Please share them in the comments section below or tweet me @Ameritest.