When you hear the word “mascot” images of Ronald McDonald, Tony the Tiger or the Kool-Aid Man probably pop into your head. The point being, they popped into your head and I bet you're probably hungry now.
This article originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of INVISION.
When people mention your business, what pops into their head? Obviously we hope it’s sentiments of warm welcome, quality eyecare and a fantastic frame-buying experience, but how is that visually represented? How is it underscored every time they have reason to interact with your practice? What is the face of your brand?
Mascots are branding elements that can help people better remember your company and products. Be they characters, animals, objects or even colors, mascots enable your community to better identify, remember and understand your business.
Do you have a mascot for your business? Are you making the most of its branding potential? If you don’t, is there an element of your business and/or its identity that you can single out and raise up as the symbolic, visual representation of what you want your brand to stand for?
Mascots can play a significant role in persuading customers toward your practice as long as they are consistent with company’s image and serve specific purposes. Good mascots are meaningful and aim to create a stronger connection to the brand by promoting specific values — be it your excellent vision care, your fast, reliable customer service, or your fashion-forward selection of frames — and by bringing a more personal touch to the service.
A recognizable logo provides you a built in mascot and can go the extra mile to bring home your business’ identity on all its visual materials. Dr. Selina McGee of Precision Vision says they’ve had patients come just because of their little owl logo. “Owls have some of the sharpest sight of any animal,” she says. “We adopted the logo two years ago and wanted something that was family-friendly and approachable. We put it on everything! Anything the patients sees, reads, touches. We give stuffed owls to kiddos under 12 after an exam, though patients in their 60s request one too.” At Roadrunner Eyecare, the logo was a bit of a no-brainer. “It’s a modern design a local artist created for us,” says Erik Law Lawrence, optician. “We were able to integrate sunglasses onto it without it looking goofy. We wanted a nod to our Southwest culture without being over the top and to convey speed without being heavy handed. We use it on everything we can; patient communications, spray cleaners, microfiber cloths, stickers, T-shirts, coffee mugs. My wife and I have tattoos also. It came to mind because I live on Roadrunner Loop but man did it work out well.”
Add Some Character
Traditionally, mascots are some sort of fictionalized, cartoon-like character. Some seem contrived and forced and fail miserably; while some, the best ones, happen organically. Like the troll who oversees Complete Eye Health’s exam room. “We had a patient bring us a troll from Norway about five years ago; we named it Urban,” says Beth Cassar. “The patient was a
foreign exchange student over 20 years ago and always visits when she comes back to town. Urban has three sets of eyes and when she brought it to us she said it needed to be seen by Dr. Cassar. Now it keeps watch over Dr. Cassar in his exam room. Urban is a hoot and brings quite a bit of personality to the exam when a patient notices it.” While at Clarity Advanced Eyecare, a onetime parade theme spawned a hoppy surprise. “We have adopted a frog suit as our mascot for parades, farmers’ markets, and other community events,” says Dr. Jared Most. “It fit with the ‘Great Outdoors’ theme of a local parade and the kids loved ‘Miss Frog,’ so we figured we might as well throw some giant glasses and a ‘Clarity’ T-shirt on her and keep her around for other occasions.”
Keep It Colorful
“Purple. Anything purple.” That’s how they roll at Blacksburg Eye Associates says Dr. John Dovie. Now you might not normally consider a color a mascot but when you really commit it is apparently quite successful. “We brand our office, logos, paperwork, water bottles, pens, website, etc., all a deep purple,” he says. “If a purple water bottle shows up somewhere, people automatically think, ‘Is that a Blacksburg Eye water bottle?’” Seems pretty effective, no?
The beauty of small businesses is that family members are often fixtures, even the four-legged ones. It’s rare that a friendly pet isn’t going to elicit joy from your patients and customers. The owners of Manhire Opticians bring their two labrador retrievers, Oliver, 12, director of public relations, and Izzy, 2, director of treats, to the store every day. “Our dogs are an important part of our business. They are our mascots and both appear on our website. You would not believe how many customers tell us they came to our office because they saw the dogs on the site. They are also the first impression that a customer receives when they walk into our office. Oliver has been here since he was 4 months old, so he has a history with our clientele. Our customers love them,” Susan Manhire says. While, Kevin Count, owner of Corner Optical, brings Rojo the Optipup to the office regularly. She became so popular that she has her own Facebook page (invmag.us/rojo) and has been joined by her little brother, Dave. “Rojo is 4 years old and has the role of greeting manager,” Count says. “A position she executes with great enthusiasm. Dave is still very much in Optipup training as he is only a year old. They are typically in the office on Tuesdays and Fridays. I keep them at home on doctor days because Rojo likes to sit in people’s laps.”