Say it loud! Companies’ spokespersons and voice
By Carole Bersillon
In the noisy and saturated world we live in, organizations have to find a recognizable voice to push their messages and be heard in the crowd of outlets, competitors and messages. The corporate voice represents and advocates for the organization. Sometimes the CEO, the President, a top executive, a communications officer or a charismatic person from the organization embody this voice. PR professionals are usually good spokespersons for their clients since they talk frequently with journalists and therefore know their expectations and the formats, they master the message perfectly and they have good knowledge of the topics from a lot of research work.
PR professionals are not the only best spokespersons for their clients though. Neither are CEOs or Presidents. Animals, mascots and animated and fictional characters can also be the voice of an organization.
“Consumers are less likely to have a conversation with a logo or a PR guy on social media,” said Jeff Charney, chief marketing officer for auto insurer Progressive Corp., quoted in a Wall Street Journal article titled “Knights, Pirates, Trees Flock to Facebook”. For a long time now, companies have created mascots or characters who bond with customers and talk directly to them. They engage easily with the audiences and personify the company. Spokespersons are the voice of an organization and they sometimes have to deal with crisis communications or tough subjects. Mascots and fictional characters often embody brands or products and give them an identity. They are more entertaining and sometimes they even portray the consumer, using identification strategy.
Tony the Tiger, the cartoon mascot for Kellogg was introduced in 1951 on the packaging and in advertising. He long ago became an icon of the brand, both in the US and in Europe. He was given an Italian-American nationality, a tenor voice, family members and he has been used in cartoons.
Procter & Gamble introduced Mr. Clean in 1958. The original model was a US Navy sailor from Florida. In 1962, P&G launched the first contest to engage with customers, prompting them with suggesting a first name to the character. Even if Mr. Clean does not speak, he gave his name and embodies several P&G products and became iconic for the brand. Now, he has his own Facebook page where he can interact with his 282,484 fans: “fjtfk;rtukfjghkhtrysxfchgjvhk;l;ytdyrfjchvkfgjvlhghjlvb jnrtdhgjkuutdjhgcvhutdfhjc vuyutdgkjhkgjyutjfhgchkjuyrutdkgjfhkgjyut uyutdghjfhkuyterysfhjc Oh, sorry. I was cleaning my keyboard with a Magic Eraser.” or “Hey Mr. Clean! do you still make nyplex reuseable gloves and where can I find them?”
If the criteria for a good spokesperson are credibility, his/her ability to talk to the media and a perfect knowledge of the subject, why and how can cartoons or fictional characters can be effective?
CEOs, Presidents or communications officers sometimes suffer from a suspicion of not being transparent enough. Also, a direct address by the company can be perceived as aggressive by customers. “You can put fairly bald product benefits into the mouth of a mascot and it doesn’t come off as hard sell,” said Parker Channon, partner at Duncan/Channon, a San Francisco ad firm that crafted the StubHub pitch, quoted in the Wall Street Journal article.
It is the responsibility of each organization to find its best spokesperson and find its voice. Sometimes it will become an icon, a symbolic brand or product. However, cartoons and fictional characters are more adapted to consumer firms, even if some insurance companies have used fictional characters that appear in commercials (Flo for Progressive Insurance for example).
Concerning Fusion, it is clear that the agency already found its mascot.
Have you met Charlie?