5 Memorable Advertising Characters and Why They Worked

Since long before I was born, companies from nearly every industry have been using advertising characters to achieve marketing success. In highly competitive markets, a character goes a long way to make a company stand out from the crowd.

Fool FOr MoneyIt’s pretty simple really. Characters in ads work because they allow brands to relate to customers on a deeper level. By creating a fictional character that represents the brand, a company gives customers an actual personality to connect and build a relationship with. It’s much easier to connect with a character than it is to some faceless company selling a mundane item like batteries or tires.

The best advertising characters:

  • Capture the identity of a brand and its offerings (e.g. The Marlboro Man showed that Marlboro cigarettes weren’t mild, lady cigarettes)
  • Are memorable
  • Evoke emotion

Equally as important, the characters stick around over time, and through their regular use, the characters strengthen the bond they’ve created with consumers. Think about it: Would the Geico Cavemen have been as effective if they’d only showed up in one ad? Of course not. Building relationships takes time, and that’s why characters are used for years, even decades.

Take a look at the following 5 characters. All of them meet the points on this checklist.

1. The Marlboro Man – Love him or hate him, there’s no disputing just how effective the Marlboro Man was. The macho icon positioned Marlboro as a real man’s cigarette. Even when reports came out about cigarettes causing cancer, consumers followed the rough-and-tumble image created by the Marlboro Man and continued taking charge and lighting up. In the year the Marlboro Man was introduced, the company’s sales rose by an incomprehensible 3,241% over the previous year.

2. The Energizer Bunny – The Energizer Bunny is the perfect ad character because it does a perfect job of capturing the product’s unique selling proposition: batteries that last longer than all others. Many found the Bunny to be annoying, but that’s the point. He doesn’t stop, and neither do Energizer batteries.

3. Ronald McDonald – Ronald McDonald is McDonald’s. He captures the fun, friendly vibe the fast food restaurant uses to appeal to kids and their parents. There’s even a charity attached to his name, further humanizing the character and the company. It’s no coincidence that Ronald McDonald’s introduction coincided with McDonald’s becoming the dominant fast food chain.

4. Geico Cavemen – Geico knew that buying insurance was a hassle. Customers would rather inflict self harm than go through the irritating process of switching their insurance. They needed a way to show customers that switching to Geico was incredibly easy. What better way to do it than by placing Neanderthals in a modern setting? “So easy, a caveman can do it.”

5. Snap, Crackle, and Pop – Again, these characters perfectly exemplify what makes Rick Krispies so unique. Eating Rice Krispies was an experience. The cereal would literally make snap, crackle, and pop noises, making it fun for kids and something that separated the cereal from all others out there. Never underestimate the role sounds, noises, smells, and the other senses play in making your product memorable.

What are your favorite ad characters?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here:

6 Responses

  1. My favorite has got to be Louie the Lizard from the Budweiser commercials. (Notice that I said Budweiser (this was what the frogs in the commercial said) not Bud.

  2. rolomonkey says:

    Jack … spokesperson for Jack in the Box.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Twitter Trackbacks…

  4. Edgar Abshire says:

    Muchos Gracias for your blog article. Much thanks again. Really Cool.

  5. Frank Metz says:

    A round of applause for your blog post. Really thank you!

  6. […] The Energizer Bunny (known for its big drum and cool shades) is an ideal ad character as it has done the perfect job of showcasing Energizer’s competitive edge as being a battery that lasts longer than any other. It was named the Chief Bunny operator (CBO) from Energizer to beat its competitor, the Duracell Bunnies. Energizer’s tagline “just keep going and going” was a hit in the advertising world that even became part of the vocabulary for American presidential candidates including George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Howard Dean in 2004 (Source). The brand, Eveready, used the Energizer Bunny for eight years as they believed that it was still viable. Many have found the bunny irritating, however that’s the point where he doesn’t stop and neither does Energizer batteries (Source). […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *