Mumbai: The next time you log on to the in-flight entertainment set-up offered by Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, don’t be surprised if a little bird offers to take you through the programme and meal options. And by bird, we mean Kingfisher Junior — a mini version of the airline’s animated brand mascot — the kingfisher bird. The airline is talking with leading kids channels to produce branded content featuring their animated mascot.
Illlustration: Jayachandran / Mint
Kingfisher Junior’s cameo on the in-flight entertainment network marks a new trend among advertisers, who are using brand mascots in media content and consumer interactions to reach target audiences. Not only does this move create instant liking and recognition for the brand, but also helps advertisers cut through the clutter. This is especially true in a diverse market like India, where mass brands have at least 16 language translations for their ads.
Advertisers bank heavily on visuals, colours, mnemonics, sounds and symbols to connect. “So, even if the consumer is not literate, they are likely to remember the brand based on other properties, such as a brand mascot or jingle,” said K.V. Sridhar, national creative director of Leo Burnett India.
A case in point is that of Sunny, the animated mascot for Sunfeast biscuits from ITC Ltd. “Investing in Sunny has definitely paid off,” said Hemant Malik, head of marketing at the foods division of ITC. Sharing his experience with a consumer in a village in Madhya Pradesh, he said, “I asked him how he recognized the brand if he couldn’t read. And he pointed to Sunny and said he would because of the gudda (doll) on the pack.”
It’s not surprising then that more advertisers are looking at promoting their mascot in every possible way. Adventures of Bubba the cat, the mascot for Cadbury India Ltd’s bubble gum brand Bubbaloo is being featured in comic books and television commercials.
A life-sized version of Sunny visits schools and 7UP’s cool mascot Fido Dido makes occasional television appearances. In the past, Fido Dido has served as a celebrity judge at the Miss Sri Lanka contest, hosted Discovery Travel and Living channel’s top 10 beach destination guide and even featured on a music request show on Gemini TV. Kingfisher Junior will feature in the airline’s in-flight entertainment programme and also on merchandise offered to those aboard.
Content providers such as TV channels and publishers are also tying up with the brands to create branded content. Not only does it help the brand engage audiences, especially children, in a more entertaining and engaging manner, but also keeps them from tuning out during ad breaks.
“It’s a win-win situation for both,” said Nina Elavia Jaipuria, vice-president and general manager of Nickelodeon India. “If you present the character in a manner that is entertaining, it creates a stronger connect for the brand. It also helps avoid any surfing out of the channel during ad breaks.”
The channel is talking to brands that are keen to piggyback on properties that would allow the use of branded mascots. For example, an animated brand mascot could be used to announce birthdays or to launch a contest, in place of their cartoon characters.
Cartoon Network is also looking at this opportunity in a big way. “We are exploring advertiser-funded programming in animation. We’ve had big companies approach us and say they want us to create a whole animated series based on their characters…it’s quite exciting…that is in the direction that things are going to go,” said Orion Ross, vice-president of creative and original content at Turner Entertainment Networks Asia Inc.
However, he said the channel wouldn’t consider doing it unless the character was “really cool”. “It’s not the first time we’ve had this kind of request and I think you will see things like this happen a lot more.”
The downside is the cost. “If you are to build any content with the brand mascot, you have to ensure that the quality of animation is really good. Which means that creation of such content is likely to be cost- and time-intensive,” said Pratik Pota, executive vice-president of marketing, flavours portfolio, PepsiCo India.
Experts also maintain that Indian consumers tend to associate animation and animated brand mascots with products aimed at children. Nonetheless, advertisers are optimistic. “We are now talking to an entire generation of young adults who have grown up on video games. They love their playstations and are logged onto Second Life (an Internet-based-virtual world). They are not likely to dismiss animation as something for kids,” Sridhar said.