The Mascots that Made Us: From Tony the Tiger, to Pikachu.

As a media studies scholar and cereal addict, I find popular culture mascots such as Tony the Tiger and the King Vitamin (my all time fav, second only to Count Chocula) to be fascinating examples of how branding and marketing are used to create narratives that capture the attention and loyalty of audiences. These mascots have become iconic representations of their respective brands, and their narratives offer insight into how brands are able to create emotional connections with consumers.

Let’s start with Tony the Tiger. Tony has been the mascot for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes for over 60 years. He is a muscular, friendly-looking tiger with a booming voice and a catchphrase that is known around the world: “They’re grrreat!” What is interesting about Tony is the way in which he embodies the values of the Frosted Flakes brand. Tony is confident, optimistic, and energetic. He represents the idea that eating Frosted Flakes can give you the energy you need to tackle any challenge. By associating these positive qualities with the Frosted Flakes brand, Kellogg’s is able to create a narrative that connects with consumers on an emotional level.

The Keebler Elves are another example of how popular culture mascots can be used to create a narrative that resonates with consumers. The elves are the mascots for Keebler Cookies, and they are portrayed as mischievous, fun-loving characters who live in a magical tree. The elves’ playful nature and whimsical world are designed to create a sense of joy and delight in consumers. By associating their brand with this sense of joy, Keebler is able to create an emotional connection with consumers that goes beyond the taste of their cookies.

While these mascots are undoubtedly successful in capturing the attention and loyalty of consumers, it is important to consider the impact that they may have on our culture more broadly. Popular culture mascots like Tony the Tiger and the Keebler Elves are designed to be memorable and engaging, but they can also reinforce certain stereotypes and values. For example, the idea of a muscular, confident tiger may promote a certain ideal of masculinity that can be harmful to some individuals. Similarly, the portrayal of elves as mischievous and whimsical may perpetuate the idea that elves are fantasy creatures rather than real people. It is important for us to be critical of the narratives that these mascots promote, and to consider how they may impact our broader cultural landscape.

In conclusion, popular culture mascots like Tony the Tiger and the Keebler Elves are fascinating examples of how branding and marketing can create emotional connections with consumers. However, it is important to be critical of the narratives that these mascots promote and to consider the impact that they may have on our culture more broadly. As media studies scholars, we must remain vigilant in our analysis of popular culture narratives and mascots, and we must work to promote narratives that are inclusive and respectful of all individuals.

Thinking globally

Certainly! Mascots are ubiquitous across a wide range of industries, and they are particularly popular in Japan. In Japan, mascots, or “yuru-kyara” as they are known, are used to promote everything from local government offices to businesses and tourist attractions. These mascots often have their own backstories, personalities, and fan followings. They can be anything from cute animals to anthropomorphic objects, and they are designed to be endearing and approachable.

One of the most famous Japanese mascots is probably Hello Kitty, the cute and cuddly cat that was first created in 1974 by the company Sanrio. Hello Kitty has become a global phenomenon, with her cute design and playful demeanor winning the hearts of fans all around the world. Hello Kitty has been used to promote a wide range of products, from clothing to toys, and her image has become an iconic symbol of Japanese culture.

Mascots are also prevalent in the sports industry, particularly in the United States. Many professional sports teams have their own mascots that appear at games and interact with fans. These mascots often embody the spirit and values of their team, and they are designed to generate enthusiasm and excitement among fans. For example, the Philadelphia Phillies have a mascot named the Phillie Phanatic, who is a green, furry creature with a long snout and a playful demeanor. The Phanatic is known for his high-energy antics and his ability to get fans cheering and dancing during games.

Beyond just being used to promote products and businesses, mascots are also often used for charitable causes. For example, the Ronald McDonald House Charities use a clown mascot named Ronald McDonald to promote their efforts to provide housing and support for families of seriously ill children. Ronald McDonald is a recognizable and beloved symbol of the charity, and his playful and approachable personality helps to generate awareness and support for their cause.

Overall, mascots are a fascinating and pervasive aspect of popular culture across many industries and regions. They serve to promote products, businesses, and causes, while also embodying certain values and characteristics that are designed to connect with audiences on an emotional level. Whether in Japan, the United States, or elsewhere in the world, mascots will continue to play an important role in our cultural landscape for years to come.

Further Consumption:

The Empty Bowl: A meditative podcast about cereal from cereal eater Justin McElroy and Cerealously creator Dan Goubert.

Gastropod: Exploring food through the lens of science and history. Every other week, hosts Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley dig up the hidden history and surprising science behind different topics, from aquaculture to poultry farming and even ancient feasts. They interview experts, visit labs and discover new ways to understand the world of food through archaeological digs and experiments.

Earwoolf: Most people have encountered a mascot in their lives; during high school or college, while cheering for their favorite sports team, eating a meal at a fast food restaurant, or visiting just about anywhere in Japan. MASCOTS is the podcast where some of your favorite people chat with host Mark McConville about these lovable fuzzy oddballs. Each episode of MASCOTS will feature mascot news, some games, and more. Mark will talk with comedians, sports fans, and some people from behind the scenes to celebrate the wild and wooly world of mascots.

It’s the inaugural episode of Mascots! Mark McConville sits down with Paul F. Tompkins to talk about mascots from his hometown of Philadelphia, weigh in on some mascot news, and Paul plays The Japanese Mascot Game.

Sweatiest People in the Room:

A deep dive into the life of a mascot, hosted by two former college mascots.

The Power of Mascots in Branding and UI Design: Creating a product or designing a particular message for people, we strive to make it as human-centered as possible. One of the ways to support effective communication between users and products is creating a good mascot. Let’s check what its benefits are, how it can support the design of user interfaces and enhance branding.



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