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A writer and her love for characters – video sneak peak

Enjoy this little video that presents me, my book and the topic of my project. Have fun ūüôā

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Reportage from book launch

Last week we celebrated the arrival of my book. It was a colorful, fun and inspiring day.

I did a lecture presenting my project and the book

Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe did a video-lecture by the title The Magic of Mascot Marketing

Majken Steenfat from Oister talked about Mascots, adds and brand development

Launch1

Launch2

Launch3

Launch4

 

Read the article about the event her:

Mascots fill the world

I am also offering a two-days course (in Danish) based on the book:

Skab en karakter til dit brand

 

My book has arrived

Today is a day of celebration since two years hard and exiting work finally has resulted in a publication.

Bogstak

If you want to order the book send me an email: maj@eaaa.dk

The original drwaings from the book will also be displayed today

tegninger

And you can sign up for a course about building a brand character concept for your brand.

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we fear clowns? – the art of chosing the right brand character for your brand

Recommendations for brand character strategies:

  • Pick your brand character wisely¬†– the character must be a reflection of your brand values. Beware of the possible connotations a certain type of person, animal or object might represent
  • Adapt to change¬†– society,¬†trends, your product – everything changes and these changes needs to be reflected in your brand character
  • Kill your darling¬†– if your brand character does not bring value or is even hurting your brand, it is time for retirement

If you are about to create a brand character for your brand, you might be wondering what kind of creature suits you best. Exemplified by the clown this article focuses on important things to consider in the process.

Is your brand as strong as an elephant, could it be illustrated by a energetic boy, is it free like a bird? The process of designing of brand character concept is full of choices.

You might have the idea of choosing a clown as your brand character since your product is targeted kids. A great idea since clowns are funny and invented to entertain kids.

However, the clown is a difficult choice, especially in the wake of the recent global problems with scary clown pranks. However, being scared of clowns was also a problem long before the pranks got popular.

The clown is also controversial in relation to marketing where for example McDonalds has had their challenges with Ronald McDonald because of the ambiguous connotations he evokes.

The challenges with clowns puts focus on more than one important issue regarding brand character design:

First Рyou need to choose your character wisely and you have to adjust your marketing strategy if you realize for example that clowns are problematic Рlike McDonalds have done with Ronald: He has been given a break until the scary clown hysteria passes. In other words when times, trends, politics change the brand character needs to change too. When things change, consider if the character needs to change behavior, looks or even retire.

Second focus is looking more closely at why we fear clowns. Because this leads us to another point – the importance of the face. If the image of a clown – that is supposed to look happy, smiling and inviting – can scare us as much as is does, what does that say about the face.

The face is one of the most important tool for us humans to communicate with – we create facial expressions and make sound to be understood. Vice versa, we interpret expressions and sounds that are communicated to us through the face. We also have to rely on our ability to recognize people and to tell friend from foe mainly through the face.

  • The distorted scares us

The clown is a human being ‚Äď but with exaggerated facial expressions, body language and for example shoes. The clown is a strange mixture of the well-known and the unknown – and this ambiguity makes us insecure. Our experience tells us that no one is always smiling so a constantly smiling face is not natural and creates cognitive dissonance in us. Cognitive dissonance is a kind of mental stress experienced when someone holds contradictory beliefs. The distorted look and behavior of the clown is the opposite of authentic

  • Scary clowns look like predators ‚Äď which we instinctively fear

scaryclown

  • The mask makes the clown unpredictable.

The main part of our communication happens via the face, but a face that is covered by a mask or heavy makeup cannot be read. When we cannot be certain of a person’s state of mind or intensions, it makes us uncomfortable.

Article (in Danish) about scary clowns.

 

Many months of preparing

First I researched for years and years and began this blog, then I wrote for more than six months, prof-read and prepared illustrations, which kept me so busy that there was little time for this blog. But now it is all finally coming together: right now the graphic designer is creating the layout- and this spring my book will be published. Keep and eye out it is coming soon ūüėČ

forside

This is the first version of the cover page.

designer

Example of a homemade illustration for the book. A member of the target group – the hipster designer type.

preparingillustrations

Preparing illustrations.

I have hand-drawn a large part of the illustrations myself. A surprisingly big challenge in the preparations for this book has been asking for permissions to use real brands characters in the book. Many big brands have said no, but fortunately some said yes.

innocent

 

 

Elephants and donkeys – the battle of the election mascots

Democrat and republican candidates are currently competing for the precidency in the US Рand we hear a lot about Donald, Hillary and Bernie etc. But it is also a fight between two mascots: A donkey and an elephant!

donkeyRepublicanlogo.svg

Even political parties have brand characters. The democrats have a donkey – the republican an elephant. And this relates perfectly to the reasons why many brands use characters in the first place.

In my study, I am generally using the term brand character about the figures and creatures, because I think it is more telling and broader than the word mascot. But often the terms brand character and mascot are used as synonyms.

Mascot however has an additional connotation and meaning Рbecause the word  mascot originally is to be understood as an item of magical power. A mascot is a person, an animal or an object that brings good luck. A mascot can be compared to the use of an icon, a charm, a religious relic or a talisman and is in your possession, worn or carried to protect you. In that context it makes perfect sense that often even the smallest local sports team or club has a mascot helping and cheering them to victory.

In this case the symbolic totem qualities of donkeys and elephants are hopefully transferred to the fighting politicians.

Democrats have used the donkey since 1828 because of its strong-willed and stubborn nature. It is smart and brave.

The elephant is republican and is supposed to symbolize the strong and dignified.

Read more about the American political mascots and their origin here:

Think Design

Fact monster

Look me in the eyes

eyes

What happens when people look each other in the eyes?

Do you¬†get a glimpse of the other person’s soul? Do you feel closer¬†attached? Do you build trust?

If you think of the opposite situation, the feeling that¬†something is ‘wrong’ can grow if people avoid eye contact: Maybe¬†they are shy, maybe not willing to tell the truth, are indifferent about you and the situation or not mentally present.

On an interpersonal level, a lot of information can come from the gaze: Obtaining eye contact is often perceived as an invitation and as a sign of self-confidence.

But what about the effect of eye contact in the world of brand characters?

Is eye contact as important when it comes to brand characters as is between real life people?

OPTUS_Ollie_01

 

2010-singapore-youth-olympic-mascot

A study of brand characters on cereal boxes done by Cornell University Food and Brand Lab shows that cereal producers clearly think that eye contact matters. On cereal boxes marketed for kids the gaze of the characters on boxes in 57 out of 86 cases are directed in an angle matching the young audience when passing by the shelves in the supermarket. On products directed towards adults the angle of the eyes are directed at a higher level.

As a result of that observation the researchers turned to the consumers and tested what cereal brand they trusted and felt the closest connection to. Trust and connection rose up to 28% when the character looked them straight in the eyes.

Utzgirl

A recommendation for brand character designers who want to build trust and brand loyalty is to direct the gaze of the character at your target group since we seem to find reassurance and honesty in eye contact.

 

Celebrating Face with Tears of Joy

facewithtearsofjoy

On the occasion of The Oxford Dictionaries revealing the Word of the Year not to be a word, but a picture Рthe emoji Face with Tears of Joy Р I think it is time to consider the good old question: is a picture worth a thousand words?

However the answer is complex.  Some claim that the sense of sight is more important to us human beings than any other sense. Others says that it is an oversimplification and that the way our senses influence each other is yet to be discovered. And mayby it depends on the type of person you are.

‚ÄúWe are visual creatures,‚ÄĚ says E. Clea Warburton, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Bristol. ‚ÄúOur brain has got more cortex devoted to processing visual information compared to that from our other senses. We are programmed to be encoding and retrieving visual information much more so than auditory information.‚ÄĚ

What I think is interesting about the election of the ‘Word’ of the Year in relation my project is the increased focus on pictures, visual language and faces. Faces are trending.

What is it about these faces? It is true, that it is faster to send an emoji than writing: I laugh so much it makes me cry , LOL or LMAO.

Seing that little laughing face has another kind of impact on us, than just the written words. It appeals to us in a fundamental way because we are evolutionary programmed to react to the face.

  • Did you know that a new born baby less than an hour old can trace¬†a picture of a face longer than anything else?
  • Did you know that face-blindness i.e.¬†the inability¬†to remember and recognize faces is a serious handicap and that it is called Prosopagnosia.
  • Did you¬†know that a happy face can comfort us, and that we are attracted to smiles and positive attitudes?

 

I don’t know the background for choosing the Face with Tears of Joy – and not Face with Heart shaped Eyes or Winking Face emojis. But I recently read that for us to interpret a face as being truly happy and not just smiling out of politeness or faking a smile there is at least two features that must be present:

A joyous smile (a truly happy smile) also called a Duchenne smile is when the muscles around the eyes are activated. That is precisely what the Face with Tears of Joy is doing which is different from most other smiling emoji.

obama_laughing

And of course we are communicating and selling by means of happy smiling faces when using characters in branding.

Here the recent example of a smiling Band-Aid that will comfort you if you are in pain, afraid or feeling lonely.

troeste-plaster

Tr√∂stisar T√łjdyrsplaster.

 

When you eat characters…

BBC has spotted a new trend: creating food faces. But the trend is not just about creating food-faces for your own amusement or to persuade kids to eat their dinner. People are theming their¬†Instagram accounts to share photos of food-faces. And where does this trend boom? – in Asia of course and Japan in particular. It’s so kawaii!

angry-birds-bento-box

A Google search on Character Bento gives you a surprisingly creative and colorful result. A bento box is a Japanese lunch box usually containing a homecooked meal of rice, meat, fish and vegetables. Often carefully arranged to look appetizing. The food face trend is taking this tradition to a new level.

And yes food that looks like characters is common in Japan, and a lot of other places:

Foodwithaface

Me eating cake in Tokyo.

macarons

Character macarons

But it’s not a new thing to combine food and faces – and publishing the result. In the renaissance the Italian artist Guiseppe Arcimboldo specialised in the same concept when he excelled in painting faces made out of fruit, vegetables etc.

archimboldo arcimboldo

When we are seeing faces in the food like that, artists and foodies are relying on a phenomenon called pareidolia.

Wikipedia defines pareidolia as:  a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.

reverse-1314011768_talking_fried_egg

This is not a gif-animation of a face talking – it is a gif-animation of two fried eggs!

pork_face

 

And so this trend is yet another example of how obsessed we are with faces and how powerful the face is as an archetypical image. We simply can’t help seeing the¬† familiar pattern of the face. It is almost compulsive.

And of course a lot of food branding is relying on the combination of food and faces

Melthemilkbite_kraft

Mel the Milk-Bite from Kraft

heinz_tomatoman

Heinz Tomato man

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