Advertising, by its very nature, is intrusive. Especially in the modern world, an ad really has to stand out to be noticed. The subject of the ad sometimes seems secondary to getting attention.
But as we covered last week, it’s hard to get attention, so advertisers get gimmicky. One of the best gimmicks is to step out of the magazines, radios and televisions and into our world.
This can be as simple as footprints on the ground leading to the location of a product, or as complicated as a fully realized interactive exhibit. Accessing the sense of touch is a powerful aid in making your product real to people. More than mere signage or print ads, such advertising engages and appeals not merely to our natural curiosity and playfulness, but gives literal weight to your words.
Where is this more evident than theme parks? They’re theme parks. It’s right in the name.
Despite its standing as the largest amusement park corporation (by property) in the world, Six Flags has had the most trouble with working out a good mascot. Which is mystifying, because here are just some of the characters that show up in Six Flags parks.
Which one has been their mainstay mascot since 2004?
“Mr. Six” is supposed to be wildly popular, but does anyone really like this character? I mean, if they were going to go with a mascot that would give people nightmares, they should’ve just gone with Pennywise.
Knott’s Berry Farm
For most of the year, Knott’s mascots are various members of the beloved Peanuts crew. That started in 1983, when the park added their “Camp Snoopy” attraction.
This partnership was a great idea in the ’80s, when merchandising of syndicated comic strips was basically a license to print money, but that’s not how it is anymore. Sadly, syndicated comic strips, like the newspapers they’re printed in, are a relic of the last century. Peanuts in particular was a product of its time — which was the 1950s.
Is Charlie Brown’s fading star solely responsible for the park attendance? That’s hard to say, but it’s a telling statistic that the park makes half of its yearly profits in one month: October, the month that they change the whole park over to Knott’s Scary Farm — the Halloween attraction that is notably lacking in Great Pumpkins.
But the undisputed master of mascots is Disney. Not only have they got intellectual property coming out of their every orifice, they know how to cater to all ages, and they don’t even need their theme parks to do it anymore.
Let’s do a roll call, shall we? Disney owns some of the biggest cultural touchstones of every living generation:
This is on top of Disney’s massive stable of characters built up over 91 years of ruling everyone’s childhood.
AND YOU CAN MEET ALL OF THEM.
The Mouse House pretty much rules pop culture right now.
Mascots like these are a case where the line between product and advertising gets a bit blurry. Out of their natural environment (the parks), they yet act as both, if they can maintain relevance.
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