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G2: Shortcuts: Marketing: When corporate mascots go badly wrong
[May 21, 2014]

G2: Shortcuts: Marketing: When corporate mascots go badly wrong

(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Meet Happy, the new McDonald's mascot. Customers in the US got their first glimpse of him in a tweet on Monday night. And unfortunately Happy did not make people happy. He made them scared. Or at least that was the majority verdict on Twitter: "It's the meal that eats you." "Never going to be able to see a happy meal again." "That is not right with God." You can see where these people are coming from. But Happy is in good company. Mascots are often terrifying. They are all Frankenstein's monsters, in one way or other, the alter ego of a brand, an event, a campaign. That is scary. So don't panic, Happy, here are some equally creepy playmates for you: The Burger King The inaugural ruler of Burger King was a jaunty fellow with a lopsided crown. He appeared on a sign at the first restaurant, in Miami in 1955, and underwent changes over the decades. But in 2003, when Crispin Porter + Bogusky took over the advertising account, the Burger King got creepy. In TV ads, he popped up in people's beds. In retrospect, the Jimmy Savile-style jewellery also looks ill-advised. The king was killed off in 2011.

Mr Balls Now, Mr Balls has an important job to do. He is the mascot for a campaign to raise awareness of testicular cancer in Brazil, "a friendly snowman in the shape of testicles". So well done for that, Mr Balls. But still, he is kind of hard to look at. To be fair, his facial expression, examined in isolation, is jolly. But the hairs that sprout from his scrotum, which after all comprises most of his body, are a little offputting. And his cheeks resemble two miniature, misplaced testicular sacs. Perhaps that's a s ymptom to look out for.

Izzy Izzy, the official mascot of the Atlanta 1996 Olympics, was initially designed as a blob with a tail, an appearance that earned him the nickname "sperm in sneakers". After that, he grew long legs and lost his bottom teeth. (Not to be tried at home, even if you do want to look more approachable.) But by then the damage was done.

Paula Cocozza (c) 2014 Guardian Newspapers Limited.

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