Marketers and advertisers have relied for decades on brand characters like Tony the Tiger and Mr. Clean to build brand trust and awareness through print, TV and packaging. Today, brand marketers use these same characters in visual content on Facebook in an effort to engage their target audience.
Which poses an interesting question — do brand characters actually help a brand’s visual content marketing efforts on Facebook?
We recently conducted a study of visual content on Facebook in order to answer this question. We used Taggs’ visual content marketing technology to analyze thousands of brand images on Facebook and quantify how some well-known brand characters impact the shareability of owned content.
Hypothesis: Brand Characters Boost Shareability
We hypothesized that Facebook image posts published by brands that include brand characters would have more shares than those image posts without brand characters, with the rationale that brand characters personify brands and will drive action from the followers on the basis of their personality, likeability, and familiarity.
We analyzed brand characters and engagement in Facebook image posts from Charmin, Frosted Flakes, Keebler, M&Ms, Nesquik, Cheetos, Green Giant, Travelocity, Planters, and MetLife. (See the footnotes for methodology.)
How Do The Brand Characters Stack Up in Facebook Engagement?
In short, we found that most brand characters do well but a couple do poorly in engaging their respective Facebook audiences (see graph).
Loved Brand Characters on Facebook
Youth brand characters generally helped boost engagement in visual content: The Nesquick Rabbit (+51% shares compared to the brand’s non-character images), the Keebler Elves (+203% shares), and Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger (+279% shares). These findings were consistent with our original hypothesis.
Of all brands in the study, Charmin achieved the greatest boost in shareability (+585%) when using its characters the Charmin Bears in visual content on Facebook. Mr. Clean was also associated with a solid +182% boost in shareability for the brand. We hypothesize that a significant factor behind the strong success of household goods brand characters could be the lack of alternatives of shareable imagery. Household chores, dirty dishes, or rolls of toilet paper typically don’t make for interesting visual marketing content, so brand characters provide more engaging alternative.
Unloved Brand Characters on Facebook
Two well-known brand characters that correlated with reduced shareability: Green Giant’s Sprout (-16% shares) and Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome (-63% shares). In both of these cases, there was a particular type of content that performed much better than the brand character. For Green Giant, images of delicious looking food resulted in higher share counts. For Travelocity, images of exotic travel locales (absent the Gnome) achieved high share counts.
Some Brands Always Use Their Brand Characters
We found that MetLife (Snoopy and friends) and Planters (Mr. Peanut) always use their brand characters in Facebook images. Therefore we couldn’t benchmark how these brand characters performed relative to content without the character. It is, however, worth noting that these brands rely heavily on their characters as a source for creative and compelling content.
Examples of brand characters in facebook brand images, from Taggs’ web application.
Visual Content Marketing for Facebook Takeaways
Our research led to a few key takeaways that will help you hone your visual content digital marketing strategy for Facebook, especially if you’re using brand characters.
Don’t assume that brand characters (or any other branding element) positively impact Facebook engagement. Take time to consider the key assumptions underlying your content strategy and make it a habit to test your assumptions.
Align your brand character with your content goals. We found that brand characters work well with content that personifies an emotion (i.e. humor, patriotism), highlights a holiday (i.e. Easter, Mother’s Day), and accents other relevant cultural or day-to-day activities (i.e. Chester Cheetah taking a selfie on a sunny day). Be cautious using brand characters in sales-y, product-centric content like coupons, contests, and promotions.
Use brand characters to augment otherwise boring content. Marketers of less-than-exciting products (i.e. toilet paper and cleaning products) can use brand characters to create entertaining, engaging, shareable content.
What are some of the assumptions about your visual content digital marketing strategy that you’re going to put to the test?
The Research Methods Behind the Madness
We analyzed brand-posted images on the Charmin, Frosted Flakes, Keebler, M&Ms, Nesquik, Cheetos, Green Giant, Travelocity, Planters, and MetLife Facebook Pages between January 1, 2013 and May 31, 2013. We only analyzed images published to the Timeline.
We used Facebook On-Page Shares as the metric to evaluate the engagement success of image posts.
For each brand image post we indexed, we used Taggs technology to automatically characterize brand images into three buckets: Brand Character Present, No Brand Character Present, and Brand Character Present but Not Central to the Image (i.e., the character appeared on product packaging within an image). We then compared the average shares of images with Character Present against those with No Character Present to quantify the engagement differences.