[By Andrew Munday]

At age 59, he has over one million Facebook followers and sends flirty tweets on a regular basis. His name is Mr. Clean.

Yes, that Mr. Clean.

The bald and brawny character is just one of the many brand mascots being used as social media personalities.

And with good reason — they’re effective.

In fact, a 2013 study found that mascots are actually more successful than celebrity endorsers in generating social media publicity.

And once you consider what makes them so useful, you start to see why.

1) Mascots are controllable
A celebrity spokesperson can get your brand a lot of exposure on social media, but sometimes can do more harm than good with one off-brand tweet.

Mascots, though, are controlled by a company’s marketing team. Even if the actor portraying the mascot goes rogue on social media, the character can live on without the voice or face behind it. Just look at Aflac, which simply replaced Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of its lovable duck mascot, when he tweeted jokes about victims of the 2011 tsunami.

2) Mascots seem authentic
It may sound crazy, but even though mascots are essentially mouthpieces for large companies, audiences trust them. They make companies appear more approachable and the key to this is in the humanization of the mascots themselves. The GEICO Gecko, for instance, tweets about his favourite desserts, makes puns and even has a hashtag devoted to #GeckoPhilosophy.

3) Mascots can get away with more
When a company uses social media, even the slightest misstep can be seized upon by consumers and the media alike.

But a mascot is fun, likeable and can be forgiven for just being who they were created to be. Consider Allstate Insurance’s Mayhem. Created as a villain who highlights road risks, he actually generates positive attention for bad messages, even receiving over 1,000 likes for a tweet that brags about his distracted driving.

This innovative approach to social media engagement allows companies to interact with audiences in a casual way while still promoting the brand. It will be interesting to see how this tactic adapts as social media continues to evolve.

(Photo by LoboStudioHamburg via Pixabay]