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.
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.