Brand mascots are not just an advertising tool — they’re the spokesperson for your company, and a way to win the hearts of your customers through storytelling. Unlike human spokespeople or influencers, animated brand mascots are timeless, creating a familiarity that’s essential for captivating older audiences, and engaging new ones.
Whether it’s a talking gecko, or a well-dressed peanut, there are some companies that have embraced animation for decades. These companies have built memorable brand stories that have become synonymous with their name — while ensuring their image reflects the current trends of their time. Here’s a look at some of the most unforgettable animated brand characters, with some valuable lessons on what it means to make a lasting impression.
Mr. Peanut is the official mascot for Planters Peanut Company. The beloved figure was created by Antonio Gentile, a 14-year-old boy from Virginia who submitted his drawing of ‘Mr. Peanut’ as part of a contest held by Planters in 1916. Since then, Mr. Peanut’s iconic top hat and monocle has been embraced by peanut lovers in print, and later on-screen. In his first television appearances, Mr. Peanut played a silent role. Actor Robert Downey Jr. was first to voice the character in 2010, and was later voiced by Bill Hader.
Mr. Peanut’s look remained largely unchanged throughout the decades. In fact, when Planters asked fans to vote on whether to change his image as part of their centennial celebration in 2006, the public decided that he was fine just the way he was.
But that all changed in 2020. As part of an elaborate Super Bowl ad campaign, Planters “killed” their beloved mascot, who was then reborn as the brand’s new spokesperson, Baby Nut. The move marks the next chapter in Planter’s brand story — and we certainly haven’t seen the last of this budding new animated star:
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog had a speedy rise to fame as the lightning-fast hero taking over Sega consoles in the early ‘90s. Sonic’s first big-screen debut was in the in “Sonic the Hedgehog the Movie,” a two-part animated feature released in 1996. But it’s his latest film that serves as an important lesson for when not to mess with a mascot.
Sonic is known for his unique animated appearance, notably, his large, cartoon eyes and red sneakers. But in 2018, animators took a different approach when creating the embarking on a new Sonic project, a live-action/animated crossover film. When the initial trailer was released in 2019, a CGI Sonic was introduced — this time, with more human-like proportions. The initial trailer received backlash from fans, prompting Paramount to go back to the drawing board. The movie was delayed until its release in early 2020 — this time, with a rendering of Sonic that fans were (more) satisfied with. For a closer look, check out this comparison below:
Chester Cheetah is the cool cat behind Frito-Lays’ Cheetos. The mascot made his debut in the late 1980s, with his animated style to appeal to changing demographics. Chester started off as a 2D animation, starring in wacky, brightly-colored television commercials. In the early 2000s, Chester was reimagined in 3D form, with a sleeker, more mature deposition. Now, Chester has abandoned the full animated appearance for a photorealistic look — without compromising the attitude and demeanor that has made the mascot successful for decades.
Geico is known for its off-the-wall advertising campaigns — namely, its talking gecko. We’ve also seen camels, cavemen, woodchucks, squirrels, and pigs all rise to stardom as animated brand mascots. Geico’s offbeat approach to advertising, and their use of animated characters in real-life situations has allowed them to gain brand recognition as a pioneer in their industry. Competitors like Nationwide have also taken notice, hopping on the trend with similar quirky characters in their more recent “LiMu Emu” campaign.