Surf’s recent introduction of a foam-like brand character, ‘Surfy’, raises the question of whether brand characters are an important signpost for a brand’s identity or a juvenile gimmick that lacks longevity.
Brands are a lot like people. They have a particular look, they talk in a certain way, they make particular promises and hold certain beliefs, and crucially have relationships with people (well, at least with consumers and other brands.) Characters become extensions of a brand’s ‘identity’ and act ad a signpost to help us to identify it in a crowded marketplace.
Some work better than others – the Michelin Man, for example, has stood the test of time. He represents the robustness, strength and positivity that the brand also stands for without feeling trite. Most importantly, he’s entered our vernacular: ‘the Michelin man’ means something to us. The Duracell bunny and the Fairy Liquid baby fit in this same camp. They reflect the brand’s personality and purpose, they feel timeless and so connect with us as icons.
There are others that aren’t as effective. Ronald McDonald, once the bastion of childhood frivolity, seems lost in a world of childhood obesity and modern technology. Kids would rather spend their birthdays with an iPad rather than a clown. Similarly, the Russian meerkats who perpetuate insurance-based confusion for comparethemarket.com seem to be aging fast. The meerkats have big personalities and stick in our minds, but – apart from pun-based messaging – don’t seem to have much to say about comparethemarket.com as a brand.
So what about Surf? Fragrance is the big differentiator in laundry and Surfy is designed to celebrate fragrance and positive energy. It could work. It’s intimately connected to a brand that’s all about fragrance, and looks to have a personality that isn’t too detached and temporary. But, as with the others, the test will be how well it resonates with consumers.