How to be a Mascot

So, you skip into work feeling pretty happy about the day ahead. The journey in was pleasant, the sun is shining, a stranger smiled and said hello and the day ahead looks pretty awesome.

Just as you pass the bosses office they call you in and in that moment your world shatters as you see the company mascot sat in the corner. You know this time was sure to come, everyone has a turn and yours is long overdue. A fuzzy image of the last ‘victim’ is burnt into your retina; the horrific sight of two colleagues pulling the oversized head from their comrades shoulders and the thousand yard stare on their face said everything you ever needed to know about the experience.

This is a picture we understand so well. Mascot wearers generally fit into two camps; those who do it willingly and those who liken it to abuse. Well made mascots make an extraordinary difference to the experience – comfort, ventilation, movement, hydration, cooling, vision are considerations often overlooked by the cut-price manufacturers but what about the actual performance?

Lesson 1 – Don’t Do It!

Let’s get it right out in the open, we can’t impress upon you strongly enough that you should never, ever burden someone to wear your mascot if they’re ill-inclined to do so. Your brand should be sacred, vigorously protected, a valued asset to be treasured and most carefully considered, so why, why entrust someone who feels so strongly against actually being your brand, to do so? Everyone, and I mean everyone will be able to read their body language from a mile away that they’d rather be dead than spend another minute dressed up as Barry the Biscuit Barrel.

Phew! I’m glad I got that off my chest.

If you have the means, and it really is worth exploring, use a professional. A trained performer, like the professionals we provide at Kanga Paws, will not only love, really love, what they’re doing but they will also understand completely the responsibility they have in presenting your brand, engaging with their audience in an appropriate way and ensuring the experience is magical, exactly as it should be. We provide training to every new performer, each performance is assessed, they’re provided with support and feedback and the good ones will always be requested by name.

But what if this isn’t the case? Whatever the circumstances there will always be times when Sue from Marketing, Dave from the Griddle section or Tash, the senior VP has to climb into an oversize costume and represent.

Lesson 2 – Be them!

Probably the first piece of advice is, for just a moment, suspend the fact that you’re Sue, Dave or Tash. Stop for a moment and consider what and who you are going to become and recognise that, as soon as the costume is on, to everyone around you, no matter how long they’ve known you, you will absolutely be that personality.

Drop your ego, your veneer, any hangups you might have and believe when you return to your regular self, everyone who does know you will have a much greater respect for you, though only if you can pull it off. It’s also important to recognise that, because you’ve transformed, everyone will want this to work, no one will want you to fail.

Lesson 3 – It’s Magical!

This doesn’t just apply to children, we’re all young at heart so absolutely, under no circumstances ever reveal yourself. You might hear a voice inside your head telling you that everyone knows there’s really a person inside but that does not mean they want it to be proven to them.

However tempting it might be to take a break in the middle of the sports field, theme park, or event and remove your head for air, DON’T! Want to kick your feet off and give your toes a wiggle? NO! At least not until securely backstage and away from Tony Turtle’s adoring fans.

Shopping Mall appearances are most dangerous; the close contact provides ample opportunity for mischievous audience members to explore the chinks in your armour but remain strong, be resilient and trust your chaperone (see below). In a quieter moment a cynical parent may try to trick you into revealing yourself by engaging in adult, human conversation. “Hot in there?” they might ask and no matter how tempting it might be to sigh loudly and answer them, don’t be fooled, it’s merely a ploy. Never shatter the magic for anyone.

Lesson 4 – Chaperones

You can’t do this alone. Practically it can be tricky negotiating surfaces that, until ten minutes ago you took for granted, like the earth. Now, for some strange reason, there’s a disconnection between legs and brain. Worse still, your field of view is similar to the time when, aged six and three quarters, you made ‘binoculars’ with two toilet rolls and your mums wool and tied them to your face.

There are other dangers too – puddles transform into viscous oceans, kerbstones sheer faces that Nepalese sherpas would give second thoughts to scaling and small pebbles become like glossy marbles rolling around an icy surface.

The mental concentration required to negotiate these obstacles means that personal preservation needs for you to largely ignore other hazards. This is bad. Those other hazards are likely small children, seemingly millions of them, sprinting towards you determined to smother you with cuddles. Even if your character is not of the cuddling type there will be an endless demand for selfies and posing for photos and when your arms no longer seem to be your own, placement is crucial. One misplaced hand can turn Pirate Pete the sports mascot into the ugliest of headline news.

Before you begin, speak to your chaperone, get to know and trust them if only for a moment, it will be invaluable to both of you. Once dressed, walk around with them, tell them the difficulties you face and what you need from them. Can they hear you? If they can in a quiet office space it may be very different on a busy street so be clear how and when you’re going to communicate.

What about their role? Are they simply to help you or are they going to be handing out promo leaflets? Will you be static and they’re wandering through crowds? Agree a plan and most importantly, agree a safe signal. If you’re needing a break or an exit how will they know?

Lesson 5 – Debrief

Wow! You did it!

For us at Kanga Paws, that initial experience is really important feedback and helps us improve service so capture it and tell us. It’s also important information to capture and share among your team; how did it feel? What would you do differently next time? How did you and your chaperone work? Was it too long? Was the location okay?

Lesson 6 – Social Media

Use it and don’t use it.

However tempting it might be to post on your personal social media channels, pictures of you half dressed as the company mascot, don’t! At least not without approval first.

However, if your organisation, club or company have their own social media presence then share the heck out of it. Live appearances are great but you can maintain momentum and generate interest for future appearances with effective use of social media. You’ll generate a whole lot more interest and engagement from developing a personality for your mascot and a following that will explode.

Good luck!

We have more than twenty years experience in producing and managing mascots and promotional costumes and most people understand and appreciate the skill involved in constructing such high quality examples. Few, however, really value the skill required to perform until it either goes wrong or they source someone well trained and experienced.

There’s so much more to learn – preparation, gesturing, conveying emotions, movement, communicating with your audience, working with kids, crisis management and so it goes on…

If you value your brand, if you value your mascot, engage a professional. If you really, really have to do it yourself, we hope this guide proves helpful.

What are the benefits of a Brand Mascot?

“They never get in trouble with the law. They don’t up their fees. You can use them for a long, long time.”

—Carol Phillips, President of Brand Amplitude

Mascots are ageless.
As your business and your brand grows and ages your mascot remains a constant, familiar feature.

Research shows that mascots are more effective at engaging and driving social media than celebrities.
Synthesio monitored social media buzz generated by both celebrity spokespeople and brand mascots and found that brand mascots, on average, contributed to a much higher percentage of that brand’s buzz on social media. While most celebrity endorsers only contributed to 3.19% or less of a brand’s buzz mascot endorsers ranked much higher.

Brand mascots create a softer way to sell your product.
Consumers prefer to interact on social media with a cute, entertaining character rather than a nameless, faceless PR person or corporate executive. While characters encourage casual conversation, executives simply do not.

Mascots provide a more effective voice through which to promote your brand while engaging customers.
We’re visual creatures, so stimulating your clients and customers visually is a no-brainer. Not only that, we like to humanise things, to make them familiar. Animals, bars of chocolate, – we’ve anthropomorphised the lot. And in the case of mascots, that helps create a real connection between company and customer.

Some of the worlds most recognisable brands are represented by live-action mascots – The Michelin Man, Tony the Tiger and The Energiser Bunny.
The Mr. Peanut mascot of Planters snackfoods is an example of a mascot with amazing staying power – he’s been around since 1916 and has moved with the times, developing his own Facebook page which currently has close to 700,000 likes! Mr. Peanut succeeds on social media, as an animation and a mascot costume because he’s a character with a complete personality.

A mascot helps name recognition and the right mascot can take advantage of social media by having its own Facebook Page or Twitter feed.
Studies show that brand mascots do resonate with customers, inspiring them to engage in conversation and share content. Mascots such as Flo from Progressive, the GEICO Gecko, and Tony the Tiger have brought significant social media success to their parent brands. By taking time to develop a mascot that truly personifies your brand, you too can cultivate a social media presence that reaches your core audience.

Mascots can have a significant impact upon improving brand recognition and sales and can even become their own cost centre with merchandising initiatives like toys, collectables and associated product sales.
Combined, the M&Ms characters have amassed over 10 million fans on Facebook. Ms. Green boasts 54,000 followers on Twitter, while Ms. Brown has her own station on Pandora. M&M’s candy dispensers, figurines, furniture, clothing and linen are highly collectable, just check eBay to see just how popular and sought after some of these mascots are.

The Urban Garden in Perth

Flower Mascot CostumeOur most recent mascot costume creation saw us work with Perth based events and entertainment management company Spirit Events.

Their project was the creation of Granny’s Greenhouse, a space where kids could visit through the school holidays, get creative and learn about gardening. Kanga Paws created a flower costume for the event and The West Australian press came down to snap it taking root amongst the yarn bombed trees in Forrest Place where The Urban Garden Event will take place.

We had a great time on the photo shoot, tagging on to Perth Fashion Festival in the centre of the city where, surrounded by models, make up artists and high fashion we dressed up as a flower and padded through the puddles before the heavens opened.

Flower costumeYou can find out more about this free event here, at the Visit Perth City website.

You might also want to check out Spirit Events, their creativity and focus on kids and family events and entertainment means they’re the perfect partner for Kanga Paws and we can’t wait to collaborate again. Their Facebook page covers all of their most recent projects and if you’re in WA, they’re definitely worth checking out.

Hysterical!

After years of creating costumes we know the most critical factor to achieving the right look is the eyes. It’s also an incredible skill and our in-house illustrator and modeller is a genius at translating an idea, a vision or an existing character and understanding how crucial it is to scale the eyes correctly.

Just for fun, we thought we’d share this little snippet, food for thought when there’s something not quite right but you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s all in the eyes…
Kooky Eyes

Making Mascots Work

Mascots Peggy Jr

We love our costumes. We love creating them, giving them personality and watching them come to life but often, when they leave, we hear very little of their adventures.

It’s always great to learn when a mascot has been a success, made a difference to a company or event and improved engagement and we were keen to stay in touch with Smorgaldy and Porgan, two happy, kindhearted and generous little dogs with a strong and positive message for their audience.

The Adelaide based publishing house Peggy Jr released the first Smorgaldy and Porgan book in April 2015 and having had a pretty demoralising experience with an overseas costume company they came across Kanga Paws.

It’s now been some time since Smorgaldy and Porgan left KP Studios but it was extraordinary to learn from Brad Gilbertson how the costumes have been received and how Peggy Jr are truly making the most of their mascots:

Why did you choose to have these mascots made and what were your expectations?

“We initially looked into the idea of mascots to promote our first published children’s book Smorgaldy and Porgan , along side of an App/game, activity books and other content, the mascots were to be part of the marketing. We had a poor experience with an overseas company initially when attempting to create mascots so by the time we came across Kanga Paws we were weary. We explained our previous experience to Catherine and she assured us we would not be disappointed with her version of our characters. We were unsure what to expect given previous experience but went ahead cautiously optimistic.”

How have the mascots been used and has your promotional activity changed at all?

“Since receiving the costumes they have become a focal point of our business, not just for their book but we have moved them now into part of our children’s entertainment group Blast Off. Within Blast Off, the mascot character appear in the opening skit as we find it to have the greatest impact to grabbing the audience attention as the four other characters are human characters. The kids seeing Smorgaldy and Porgan come onto the stage always evokes a stir of laughter and excitement. The mascots also appear in two to three songs during the stage show and Smorgaldy and Porgan are also on the Blast Off Season One DVD and have come out great on film also.”

How have the costumes been received by the audience?

“The first time the mascots attended an author appearance was to around 90 children and when Smorgaldy and Porgan popped in for a surprise visit it was like the Beatles had entered the room, the impact was incredible.”

If you can compare this project to previous experiences, how has having the costumes impacted upon things like customer engagement?

“As a main feature of the Blast Off concert and DVD we see them as a vital part of the group, after concerts they are mobbed during meet and greets and seem to captivate any child that meets them.”

What has been the biggest surprise for you, what have you learnt from having the mascots?

“The high quality and build of the characters was initially an enormous relief after our previous experience, we feel that they are a great and true representation of the characters. More so than that it has been seeing over time just how adored they have become by their fans and even for us. Although we know they are suits with people in them, there is still sense of intrigue and magic seeing them come to life.”

Should the need arise, would you consider commissioning another mascot in the future?

“Absolutely without hesitation.”

Thank you Brad

Click to find out more about Smorgaldy and Porgan and other Peggy Jr characters.

Mascots the Movie!

Mascots movie poster

What’s that you say, a new movie on Netflix directed by none other than Christopher Guest?
And it’s called Mascots? And it also stars Harry Shearer?

Wow, are we excited!

The last creative offering from the man who took it to eleven was the brilliant TV series Family Tree which was co written by Jim Piddock. Clearly that collaboration worked and the two have now joined forces again to give us Mascots.

Scheduled for release on Netflix in October 2016 Mascots “takes place in the ultra-competitive world of sports mascots where they compete for the most prestigious award in their field.”
The teaser trailer below doesn’t give much away but already it is looking to be hysterical. We can’t wait and we’ll post regular updates here as they reach us

Amazing video for the 2016 AICP Awards

We’re not just about mascots and costumes at Kanga Paws and this showreel caught our eye because, well because it’s just fascinating, mesmerising and incredibly creative. The 2016 Association of Independent Commercial Producers Show launched on 9th June and it was this video by Method Design which has captivated us for days.

Undoubtedly there’s CGI stuff going on here but the movements are so beautifully fluid, the textures, shadows and lighting so perfect there’s some amazing mo-cap animation as well as live action.

You can read more about it here or you can hit repeat and watch, mesmerised as it plays over and over.

Just stunning!