What do Mrs. Butterworth’s, the Vlasic Stork and the M&M’s characters have in common? They are the beloved faces, voices and personalities behind popular product brands.
Using a “spokescreature” in place of a human spokesperson to advance and promote a product or service has many built-in benefits. There are, of course, the obvious advantages: Spokescreatures can work 24/7, don’t have agents and are often cute and cuddly. They do not need dressing rooms, demand expensive lunches or display a desire to revise your press releases.
More important, however, are the communications benefits that they bring with them. Spokescreatures have the capacity to transcend the earthly bonds that constrain us mere mortals.
Once popularized, they drift easily into popular culture, appearing in cameo roles on television and in the movies. They become the subject of late-night talk show chatter, popular music refrains and social media conversations. Simply put, the spokescreature is a master communications multitasker.
REACHING ICONIC STATUS
So, what makes a spokescreature an icon in today’s cluttered media landscape? Successful, iconic brands effectively embrace social media as a way to develop direct relationships with consumers, opening the lines of communication between the customer and the spokescreature. In the pre-Facebook era, brand communication was one-sided; a character would appear in print ads and TV commercials, offering little opportunity for customers to talk back.
Today, the Vlasic Stork is one of many personalities on Twitter and Facebook enjoying everyday interactions with the consumers who are seeking a closer, more personal relationship with the brands they love. (Full disclosure: The Stork, Mrs. Butterworth’s and Lewis the Duck of Homewood Suites get some help from Digital Park, the online and social media division of rbb Public Relations.)
Brand interaction on social media is about building relationships, which is best achieved through genuine engagement and two-way communication. The Stork delivers his classic deadpan humor and commentary on current events, as well as his favorite burger recipes to more than 60,000 Facebook fans and Twitter followers.
On the surface, it may all seem like good fun, but there’s much more to it than that. These conversations can maintain top-of-mind awareness; drive product trial and discovery; and cultivate brand ambassadors.
Here are six rules for communicators who are looking to leverage social media spokes-creatures:
1. Stay true to the brand. The spokescreature is effective when it is intrinsically and positively associated with the brand. He may have his own distinct personality, but is ultimately a representation of the brand and should deliver the brand promise in an authentic and consistent way.
2. Set the tone. The personality profile must be defined from the start. A fully developed character profile will determine the voice, personality and other traits of your character. Ultimately, the profile will guide all of the detail from which the rest of the content will flow.
3. Stay in character. Social media updates and responses should be consistently written in the spokescreature’s point of view, and it should convey his unique personality, in keeping with the archetype and profile. To this end you may want to assign a committee to review ongoing copy against the personality profile. One person can’t do it all, but one writer may be best suited for creating the original content—the way a gifted actor can truly and convincingly embody a fictitious role.
4. Talk back. It can’t just be about delivering messages. Yes, the spokescreature has to deliver the brand and stay in character, and he has to do it while having a dialogue with the fans. This is what makes the social spokescreature special. Fans can have a one-on-one experience with the brand like never before.
5. Stay in sync. The marketing and PR channels need to be integrated. The social media presence of the spokescreature should be in step with the creative direction, Web site, advertising, media messaging, in-store displays, direct communications and every brand/consumer connection.
If managed effectively, social media makes a personal relationship with a brand spokes-creature a reality in a way that was never before possible. PRN
Christine de la Huerta, is VP and team leader of Digital Park, the digital and social media division of rbb Public Relations. She can be reached at email@example.com.