They’ve been with us for over a century now, greeting shoppers in store aisles, striking a pose on packaging, and popping up in TV spots and on the Web. If you’re a marketer, there’s more than a passing chance you’ve worked with one—and if you’re a shopper, there’s probably at least one of them already in your home. They are mascots—people or creatures who pitch brands to the public—and for a really old idea (the Michelin Man dates back to 1898), they have incredible staying power. By our count, there are some 140 major brand mascots out there.
And yet, only a handful are female.
From old-timers like Mr. Clean and Count Chocula to newcomers like the Kia hamsters and the Geico gecko, the most popular and enduring brand characters are all boys. But considering that women make 85 percent of all consumer purchases, doesn’t it seem like something’s off?
“I’ve talked to people about this issue, and I don’t know why it is,” says Jennifer Smith, owner of character creator AvantGarb, which made the mascot for TiVo (which, Smith points out, has no gender). Smith ventures that the dearth of female characters is a function of “a kind of Mad Men ethos” that still pervades the marketing trade. “But,” she adds, “we’d totally like to make more girl characters.”
Here, a look at some of the few female characters out there. Maybe in time they’ll have more company.