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Promotion Through Spokes-characters

Spokes-characters are animation/cartoon characters created by a company to promote a certain brand or product. These characters are used to deliver the advertising message using colourful characterization and quirky characteristics.

Use of spokes-characters has been seen in the media since the late 1800s the world over and has been noticeable in Indian media since the 1980s, from the famous Amul Girl in the '80s to the more current Zoozoos promoted by Vodafone. Other examples of spokes-characters in the Indian media are the Air India Maharaja, Pillsbury doughboy, ICICI's Chintamani, etc.

A number of companies have begun to use innovative and unique names as their brands in order to create a more vigorous corporate image and strengthen the degree of identification. The creation of spokes-characters also ties in with these goals. Aside from commercialization, the characters have also been used by merchants in propaganda and promotional activities.

Creating and popularizing spokes-characters is not done just with the aim to gain public favor and recognition, it also serves the important purpose of translating the positive impression into actual purchase. and increase brand loyalty and brand preference.


Advantages

  • Can be altered according to the needs and objectives of the brand.
  • Use of these characters lends a unique personality to the brand.
  • Since the characters are not real, their image can be created as per the image of the product or company.
  • Unlike with public figures or celebrities who endorse brands, they are free from controversies.
  • Unlike celebrity endorsements, the charters cannot be confused with any other brand. Celebrities very often endorse multiple brands.


Disadvantages

  • Once spokes-characters become highly associated with the brands, it might have negative impact if they are removed.
  • Brand recall becomes difficult if the spokes-characters overshadow the brand.
  • Spokes-characters have to be revamped to enhance the life-cycle of the brand as well as the character.


How They Work

In their research paper titles, ‘Creating Likable Spokes-Character Advertising’, Callcott and Phillips identified four factors that can determine the preference for the spokes-character. These four factors can be

  • Personality: This factor highlights obvious and identifiable feature that the consumer can relate and influence the consumer to directly associate with the brand feature.
  • Physical Character: This factor focuses on appearance of the spokes-character – the body shape, outfit, props, etc. that set up the identification of the product or brand.
  • Humor: This includes silly behaviours, unusual faces, etc. and enables higher retention among customer’s minds.
  • Customer Experience: It refers to various experiences within specific cultural context. For example, if a dog is used as a spokes-character by a company, it may have a positive or negative attitude with the character based on some past experience.

The study ‘Spokes-Characters: Creating Character Trust and Positive Brand Attitudes’ written by Garretson and Niedrich found three major factors influencing the consumers’ attention to the spokes-character: relevance to product, expertise, and nostalgia. Relevance to product refers to the link between the features of the product with that of the spokes-character. For instance the Amul Girl is plump little girl who looks healthy and wholesome. Or the Pillsbury doughboy who looks like the product (dough) and has a chef's hat. Expertise refers to the ability of the spokes-character to make a true declaration of the product. This refers to the product knowledge level of the character. Nostalgia refers to that of the ability of the spokes-character to trigger the consumers’ memory. Again, the Amul Girl is a good example – the company still uses the old slogan and the character to remind customers that this brand was once part of their childhood years. According to studies, although spokes-characters greatly influence children, use of a spokes-character also targets an increasingly diverse number of consumer groups apart from children.

David Ogilvy, a noted advertising executive, summarized 10 better ways to change the consumers’ brand preference. The seventh way dealt with a character or figure with a personality: “...trade characters can become the living symbol of the brand and tend to be particularly effective.”

 

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