Photo by Daniele Muscetta, via Flickr

What’s a Duck Worth: The Value of Earned Social Through Brand Mascots

Duck, duck…social buzz? The Aflac Duck, Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy….the list of brand mascots is endless. Marketing strategies may have changed dramatically over the years, but brands are still turning to tried and true devices like catchy slogans and adorable mascots for one main reason—they work. But can these cuddly mascots transition into the new world of social media marketing? Aflac certainly thinks so—the Aflac Duck has its own Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which are all featured front and center on the company’s website. The strategy appears to be working for the insurance brand. As we found out using uberVU, Hootsuite’s deep listening and analytics tool, the Aflac Duck is definitely making waves in social.

Each week, to prove the value of social data, our analytics team team pits two industry leaders head-to-head in a Social Media Face Off to compare the brands on social metrics such as mentions, sentiment and more to see what brand comes out on top. Recently, Aflac went up against MetLife and when it came to mentions of Aflac, one theme reigned supreme: the Aflac Duck. Take a look at Aflac’s conversation map from the uberVU via Hootsuite platform, which displays the most-talked about topics in relation to a specific keyword or phrase—in this case Aflac. You can see how much of an impact the brand’s mascot is having—“duck” alone was the number one most-used word alongside Aflac, accounting for 15% of the conversation.

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Even more impressive? “Tina Fey” (but sadly she’s not partnering with the Aflac Duck any time soon.) Her name appeared alongside Aflac due to a popular Forbes article about what celebrity spokespeople like Tina Fey—and yes, the Aflac Duck—can teach Team USA’s Tim Howard about repping a brand. Talk about a powerful mascot!

Here at Hootsuite we know a thing or two about mascots. Owly, who was originally part of our logo, helped us become one of the most recognizable companies in social. As social media matured, we wanted our identity to represent the way our company has also evolved. We decided to rebrand, but made sure that Owly, as a mascot, remained a core element of our culture and our brand. After all, social media is fun so we knew we still needed a mascot for the playful side of what we do. In Aflac’s case it seems the company knew it needed a cute mascot to help add a sense of fun to its insurance brand (since well, financial services isn’t exactly an industry known for fun). The idea worked. And like us, Aflac uses the Duck for more light-hearted, awareness messages, and reserves its other branding (and social handles) for the more serious, informational side of its business.

Aflac’s conversation map alone proves its Duck has become synonymous with the insurance brand, creating a strong correlation between the insurance brand and its core products. After we saw the level of impact the Duck had on driving organic conversations and engagement, we decided to set up a few search streams in the uberVU via Hootsuite platform to focus on just the Duck to compare the mascot’s social data with that of its brand. In addition to the existing Aflac stream, we set up two additional searches: “aflac duck” or “aflacduck” (to account for the designated social handles) and #DuckLife (the main hashtag used by the Duck’s designated handles).

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Aflac alone brought in 6,315 mentions over the past three weeks. Aflac Duck brought in 1,361 mentions and #DuckLife registered 613. What’s interesting is they all hit spikes in mentions around the same time frames. It was easy to find the cause using the streams’ conversation maps. It looks like the Aflac Duck went to yoga class.

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Aflac’s chief marketing officer explained that the new ad where the Duck tries yoga is part of the brand’s efforts to tailor its message toward women, which made us curious to see if the brand or the mascot is resonating with women in social. Comparing the gender breakdowns of Aflac and Aflac Duck shows that the mascot itself is indeed creating more conversations among women than Aflac alone, creating a more gender-balanced conversation.

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Aflac has started to position marketing and social marketing messages towards women based on research that shows that women make the majority of purchasing decisions. It’s also well-documented fact that more women use social media than men. It’s incredibly important for brands to find marketing strategies that can resonate with women online and off. And it appears Aflac has just that with its mascot.

The Aflac Duck shows that finding new ways to use traditional mascots in social media can create major value for a brand, even one from an industry that isn’t necessarily a popular topic area in social. From increasing brand or product recognition, driving organic conversation and encouraging engagement, the power of the right mascot, used in the right ways, could elevate a brand in social and beyond. And if you can get your mascot to master downward-facing dog, all the better.

The Aflac Duck is clearly a hit for the insurance brand in social, but how did Aflac stack up against its competitor, MetLife? Go deeper into the social analytics we uncovered for Aflac and MetLife in our on-demand Social Media Face Off webinar. See the insurance brands go head-to-head and come away with key takeaways and competitive intelligence for the financial services industry.

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