Before (or in conjunction with) designing the physical characteristics of a brand mascot character, it's important to consider the character's back story and how that resonates with how a brand would like to be perceived.
First of all, we need to understand the personality and values of the brand, so we'll schedule a meeting and ask questions such as:
- "How are you currently perceived? How would you like to be perceived?" Here were are aiming to find some key personality descriptors, eg. playful, modern, creative, simple, sophisticated, corporate, natural, traditional, high-tech, retro, serious, reliable, playful, masculine, feminine, youthful, sincere, exciting, rugged, elegant, welcoming, exclusive
- "Who is your target audience? Where will your brand mascot appear?" eg. We are targeting 23-29yr-old fashionable office women with a medium-level disposable income that are interested in fitness and beauty on WeChat, Weibo and Little Red Book
- "Who are your main competitors? Who would you like to be similar to? Who would you NOT like to be similar to?" eg. Our top competitors are XXX, and our second-level competitors are ZZZ. What differentiates us is...
- "What is your objective in having a brand mascot - what business challenges / pain points are we aiming to solve? What are the measures of success?" eg. We want to increase our fan base by 5,000 followers and increase our conversion rate from 5% to 8%
CHARACTER PERSONALITY & BACK STORY
Next we brainstorm ideas for character descriptions and entertaining back stories that reflect the personality of brand. We consider:
- Origin story - where did the mascot come from?
- Personality - is (s)he described by the same adjectives as the brand personality?
- Conflict - is the character frustrated by anything? Has (s)he lost something/someone?
- Desires - what drives the character? What does (s)he like or dislike?
- Flaws & Positive characteristics - is (s)he tough but bossy? Cute but a little cowardly?
- Status / age / gender / wealth / culture / self-image - these should reflect the target audience
In the case our our character, we came up with these ideas:
- Is gelatinous, similar to our brand logo
- Able to transform shape
- Telekinetically controls blobs made
- Enthusiastic and positive, always cheering on other brands
- Is a bit cheeky and funny, wants to be different and have fun in doing so
- Loves to dance
- Farts on bad designs and laughs
- Is afraid of sharp objects
- Jiggles when poked
- Loves to create shapes from blobs
- Could have a shape based on the curly 'f' in the logo
- Thinks his monobrow is seductive
- Loves curly things: fronds, roller coasters, pasta
Sketching might later give us further ideas, so writing and designing may occur in a back-and-forth rather than linear process, but we at least need a basic character description before we can start sketching.
We also need to consider the storytelling universe which the character inhabits. In the case of our character, there exists a certain amount of magic where the rules of physics do no necessarily apply. What other kinds of creatures are there? Is it colourful or monochrome? What's the geography / topography like? Does it have any quirky characteristics?
Finally, before we start sketching and brainstorming shapes and features that fit the story, we research:
- Existing characters
- Stock images
- Artistic styles
- Character shapes
Pinterest and Google Images are a great start, and it's a good idea to put any interesting or relevant images into a single PPT / keynote file for easy reference.
Next up: sketching...