Sports teams aren’t the only brands with popular mascots.
To amp up visibility and create consumer connections, companies like Bitly and TiVo design fun mascots to get users more invested in their products. A successful campaign can go viral and help propel certain brands to household names. You can’t think of Energizer without picturing its bunny, just like you can’t imagine Geico without the gecko.
Let’s examine nine such mascots and their mysterious origins.
1. Domo for NHK
IMAGE: FLICKR, SEAN NABER
Domo is the fearsome monster mascot for Japan’s NHK-TV. Created by animator Tsuneo Goda, the brown creature first appeared in stop-motion animation ads for the station.
“One night, I was up late, and I started drawing circles, squares, general shapes. As I was looking at it, a story came up in my head,” Goda says in an interview with About.com. “That’s how Domo came about — just a bunch of shapes put together.”
The mini-monster is now famous in his own right, featured in merchandise and comic books.
2. TiVo’s TV
IMAGE: FLICKR, SEAN KELLEY
Anyone with a TiVo set will recognize its ever-smiling mascot, thanks to designer Michael Cronan’s determination.
“I wanted to provide a kind of identity that would become as recognizable as the mouse ears are to Disney,” he says in an interview with PVRblog.
A mascot that looked like a TV was the obvious path, so Cronan stuck a smile under the logo and added rabbit ears, as a nod to a vintage small screen era. He then added the legs after seeing “the little Darwinian fish-with-legs evolution character on a bumper sticker.”
3. Android’s Android
IMAGE: FLICKR, MARSMETTN TALLAHASSEE
TiVo has a TV, and Android has…well, an android. Designer Irina Blok created the green robot while at Google in 2007, inspired by the male and female pictograms found on bathroom doors.
4. Energizer Bunny
IMAGE: FLICKR, TODD L. GILBERT
Energizer hit the mascot goldmine with its ubiquitous, sunglasses- and sandals-sporting bunny. For the past 25 years, the sassy animal has been drumming it up commercials and moving product for the battery company.
The mascot was developed in 1989 to mock Duracell battery ads, which featured pink bunnies. Artist Eric Allard designed the one-off concept, but it grew in popularity — and kept going and going and going…
5. Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome
IMAGE: FLICKR, CORY GURMAN
In the 1980s, a prank was born where people stole garden gnomes, photographed them at various locations, then sent pictures back to the gnome’s owner. It persisted through the mid-2000s, parodied and popularized in films like Amelie.
It also inspired Philip Marchington, a creative director at the McKinney agency. He used the prank as a basis for a campaign for Travelocity, a travel website. The Roaming Gnome became wildly popular, and has his own Twitter and background story (he left home for eight years to pursue a life of travel).
6. Yesware Yeti
Yesware is all about yetis. The email productivity service designed the goofy green monster to represent the company’s “friendly yet quirky” culture, says Eileen Ani, Yesware’s designer and engineer.
7. Twitter Bird
IMAGE: FLICKR, PRACHATAI
Twitter’s crisp little logo was stumbled upon, rather than hatched by an advert team. The site’s founders were looking on iStockphoto, a popular source for stock pictures, when they came across a bird drawing by a contributor named Simon Oxley. They bought the design (along with a robot drawing which appears when a link is broken) and used it (but have since redesigned it to its minimal, modern look).
*Fun fact, the mascot’s name is Larry (which mysteriously bears a similarity to famous basketball player, Larry Bird).
8. Reddit’s Snoo
IMAGE: FLICKR, MARTIN LAFRANCE
Reddit, the popular online community, had a mascot before it was even conceived. While a student at UVA in 2005, the site’s co founder, Alexis Ohanian, doodled the little alien with orange-red eyes and named it Snoo.
“I had no reason for choosing an alien. I just really wanted a mascot for our website (which at this point we hadn’t even begun working on),” Ohanian wrote in a Reddit thread.
The alien got its moniker because Ohanian originally planned on calling Reddit “Snew,” a shortening of “What’s New.” The spelling deviated from there.
9. Bitly Pufferfish
IMAGE: FLICKR, MIKE FABIO
Bitly, the link-shortening website, found a fitting mascot in the expanding and contracting pufferfish. It was the brainchild of the company’s CTO, Todd Levy, and Betaworks employee, Neil Wehrle, who told Mashable in an interview they wanted it to be “more of a beach ball than a poisonous fish that can hurt you.”
BONUS: Geico Gecko
VIDEO: YOUTUBE, BONNIE DAVIS
What’s the first car insurance company you can name? It’s probably Geico, thanks to the ad men of the Martin Agency. However, the talking lizard wasn’t supposed to exist.
The mascot had to be whipped up during the Screen Actor’s Guild protest, which prevented the company from using live actors in a commercial. Thus, the Martin minds came together and produced the first gecko spot, riffing off the animal’s naming similarity. The British lizard became a viral hit, and is still going strong in commercials nearly 15 years later.
*Fun fact: The gecko was originally voiced by actor Kelsey Grammar.