Meet the family. 4 brands tell stories through characters.

By Rasmus Vestergaard
Published 25/01/2023
Category: Listicle

Tony the Tiger. Kool-Aid Man. Hamburglar. Characters or mascots have been a key part of major brands’ storytelling. Now, after a small hiatus, the animated figures are making a comeback; used on packaging and advertising, they help build brand recognition and bring people into the brand universe. And for a good reason. Looking at this research from Ipsos, characters improve brand linkage and recall when used in ads.

More and more brands move towards maximalism in the look, turning up the colours, typography, illustrations, logos and characters. Even here in Scandinavia, we see agencies and brands introducing characters into their work and products to stand out from the competition.

In an interview with Thingtesting, Sarah Di Domenico, cofounder and director of brand design agency Wedge, calls mascots an “incredible vehicle for storytelling.” Craig Riseborough, Designer at Design Bridge London, adds in another article, “Mascots have always been a proven selling point as they are unique, deliver a tone of voice visually and verbally, and are assets for long-term multi-channel storytelling.”

And especially multi-channel storytelling is key here. For brands, the mascots or brand characters can provide the human connection, being a familiar face both on websites, TikTok and billboards. Duolingo experienced this on TikTok with its green owl mascot. Whereas colours or fonts are difficult and demanding to “own”, characters can be tailored even more to stand out and reflect the brand and its story.

But like anything else, utilising the full potential of brand characters take time. It’s an investment and requires dedication. The characters need to show up again and again to forge an emotional connection.

In the following, you’ll find four families of brand characters designed by Nordic design agencies.

Pursue by Olssøn Barbieri

Hard seltzer has seen a massive rise in popularity, creating its own category cliches. Pursue sought to shake things up and make something different. With Norwegian design agency Olssøn Barbieri, Pursue wanted a visual identity “as fun as their products are flavourful”, as Olssøn Barbieri puts it.

The design agency found inspiration in an “unlike place, The Wizard of Oz, inspired by the primary characters and their unique dreams and limitations – determining Pursue’s naming system with references to the movie’s beginning track ‘Over the Rainbow.'” Rotterdam-based creative Joren Joshua drew the characters, making one for each flavour.

Chamberlain Coffee by Kontrapunkt

Famed Youtuber Emma Chamberlain is an avid coffee lover. Quite naturally, she launched her own coffee brand Chamberlain Coffee. Danish branding agency Kontrapunkt helped build the brand universe, driven by a playful tone of voice and four initial characters that “represent characteristics we can all relate to”, as the agency puts it. Each character presents branches of founder Emma’s personality.

La Vie by EVERLAND

French start-up La Vie is on a mission to unite beet and beef lovers alike. With its award-winning plant-based meat alternatives, lardon and bacon, La Vie is seducing and uniting everyone. To tell the story visually, La Vie teamed up with Scandinavian design agency Everland and Lithuanian artist and illustrator Egle Zvirblyte. The result is a universe with animal characters and representatives for each type of meat, among others, Mr Piggy and Hooman.

Tugg Burgers by Kurppa Hosk

One key statement of the new Tugg identity is inclusivity and diversity. Kurppa Hosk used, among others things, a family of brand characters to express this. “We let the actual food speak for itself,” explains Lois Nygren in our interview with her. “The characters bring personality to the brand and create another dimension.” So when you visit Tugg Burgers, or the Burgerian Nation, you’ll meet Cheesela (cheese), Fritte (fries), Gurra (cucumber), Mustafa (mustard), Shalotte (red onion) and Ketty (tomato). “They are likeable characters with attitude, who are your friend but also mischievous and rebellious,” as Nygren puts it.

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