The Real Lizard King: Why brand mascots should be CEOs
I love corporate mascots. They’re friendly, colourful, often plush and always smiling. They give out hugs and treats and absolutely love posing for pictures. To a brand, they’re almost always nicer than the actual CEOs or presidents of the companies they front. With few exceptions, the big shots that purport to run things never spend much time amongst the unwashed masses that buy their products or services. They private jet in for photo ops or ground breakings and then hot foot it out of there just as fast when they’re done. To be fair, I’m sure running a big company is a huge job, what with plotting grand takeover schemes or penning voluminous reports or giving inspirational speeches or just dreaming up ways to ensure their company’s financial health. Plus, those severance packages, stock options and golden parachutes don’t exactly pack themselves you know.
I kid (not really) but for all they claim to (and actually do) do, there does seem these days to be an inordinate number of corporate titans revealed as less than stellar stewards of their corporate kingdoms. Whether its sex scandals, pyramid schemes or being too focused on ways to retrofit their super-yachts with combination heli-pad/skeet shooting ranges I do believe our CEO culture could do with a little bit of a shake-up. My plan? Replace today’s MBA/CA infested CEO ranks with the real-world mascots they already lean so heavily on for support.
It sounds crazy, but is it? That Jack in the Box guy sure seems to be running a pretty tight ship with his burger chain. Why not let Ronald McDonald actually start making some decisions? What have they got to lose? He’s a clown for sure but anybody willing to dress up like that on a daily basis is obviously committed to the brand above all else. How about Snap, Crackle and Pop? Pick one and get all three. If they take turns sleeping they could run Kellogg’s twenty-four hours a day. Now that’s value for the bottom line.
I’ll tell you what got me thinking this way. That gecko from GEICO. First, how can anyone not love the little fella? Cool color, gentle manner, a dandy little accent. Committed to keeping things simple and saving folks 15% or more on car insurance. Always he seems so down to earth and sensible, even as the boobs arrayed around him routinely disappoint. And that’s the crux of my argument. Look at the knobby twits surrounding the GEICO Gecko. It makes you wonder how that firm accomplishes anything on a daily basis. How many board meetings does it take filled with the clueless comments and stupid ideas these drill bits make to see GEICO has the wrong guy in charge? My God, look at reality people! A small gecko is the sole voice of reason in a nation-wide insurance firm! How pathetic are these idiots? Fire the whole lot of butt-covering simps and install Gecko as CEO and watch sales really take off. I can’t believe GEICO has shackled him as nothing more than a pitchman. Talk about a missed opportunity.
Look, corporate mascots as CEO’s make sense. They live their lives totally committed to the brand they front, enjoying regular, daily contact with the people they serve. You can’t miss them in a crowd, making it easier to find them at the next shareholder’s meeting when it’s time to hold folks accountable for some corporate wrongdoing or executive scandal. And I’m betting scandals would dry up pretty fast too. How many Bangkok sex stings are going to turn up Cap’n Crunch or The Jolly Green Giant? They wouldn’t do it because they’re far too easy to spot. Do you think the Michelin Man can just blend in anywhere?
I’d even take this whole thing a step further and suggest the Gecko ought to take charge of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway altogether. The story is that Mr. third-richest-person-in-the-world Buffet is looking to give away most of his fortune before he dies. That’s a great idea – and if he gives it to a helpful little chartreuse pitchlizard I think he can rest easy. The GEICO Gecko isn’t about money (watch his bio) but about helping others. If anything, he could easily turn $47 billion dollars into lunch for 300 million of his closest peeps. Now that’s change I can believe in. I hope he doesn’t do egg salad though. It never keeps well.