Restaurant mascots are more relevant than ever

 By Jasmine Kafka

Today, restaurant marketing strategies often include exploring the latest and greatest trends such as mobile payments, micro-restaurants (think food trucks) or the happy hour phenomenon. Despite the abundance of new marketing trends at a restaurant’s disposal, there’s always room for a staple 20th century branding tool, the mascot. If used successfully, restaurant mascots can increase sales by building relationships and loyalty with guests.

Often larger than life, these characters are very effective branding spokespeople who can help connect your company with customers, particularly families. Children adore cartoons, and before they even learn to read, they are capable of recognizing their favourite brands. By owning the brand ‘personality’, mascots can evoke the emotional side of guests, allowing them to engage with relatable behaviours or problems.

With the need for transparency driving many marketing strategies, mascots are a great brand spokesperson. With a twinkle in their eye, mascots can communicate specific benefits such as nutritional information, or they can take on tough topics like bullying.

Take Boston Pizza’s (BP’s) mascot Lionel, for example. He mentors children by emphasizing the importance of being a team player and by fostering inclusiveness. Although Lionel has been featured in BP’s marketing throughout the years, his role has been greatly expanded recently through the company’s integrated in-store kids program. By utilizing the kids program and growing Lionel’s personality and story, BP has noticed a marked uptick in brand interaction with the family segment.

Restaurant mascots: Keeping your brand top of mind

“Our mascot has been a great tool to help keep our brand top of mind locally in a way that speaks to the heart, and this resonates with children and families alike in communities across Canada,” notes Jaclyn Fazio, Marketing Manager – Community, Boston Pizza International. “Lionel can be spotted anywhere from our interactive kids app, to community events, parades, walks, and birthday parties.”

By owning a mascot with a relatable personality, restaurants can make messaging more fun and engaging for all guests.

Beyond messaging, a mascot’s key strength is the ability to be physically present at a variety of local store marketing efforts. Hosting a birthday party is a great way for mascots to connect and build relations with guests. Mascots are also integral to a restaurant’s social responsibility; they can help bring awareness to specific initiatives through a variety of programs in schools, in the community and at sporting events. Store openings are another great opportunity to get the mascot involved – as a great brand ambassador and to generate buzz and excitement with the family segment.

Integrated marketing program

The best part about mascots, though, is their ability to participate in integrated marketing programs, specifically on social media. Using a mascot online is a great way to speak to guests; mascots can now come to life through Facebook pages, website animations and mobile apps.

“If we signed our Facebook posts ‘from the marketing department’, that would be a little awkward,” states Beth Mansfield, director of PR for Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Social media is a staple in our lives, and it has become a playground for animated mascots who can bring stories and content to life.

Whether it’s revitalizing an outdated brand character or creating a new one, mascots bring a host of benefits and can add authenticity to your brand. Your mascot, who is aligned with your corporate goals and culture, is a timeless spokesperson who can earn a place in your guests’ hearts from childhood and into adulthood. “

As long as restaurants want to appeal to kids,” says marketing analyst Joel Cohen, “mascots will play an important role in their marketing.”

About the Author

Jasmine Kafka is Manager of Marketing Communications and Account Services at Kidzsmart, a kids and family marketing firm based in Vancouver, BC. Their focus is on increasing family market ROI for their clients by developing revenue driving, and loyalty inducing kids and family experiences. Through the use of children’s illustrations, storytelling, character development and fun participation games, Kidzsmart develops brand relationships that last.

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