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The Secret to Creating a Timeless Icon

Kelly with Don & Mike Oriolo

Last week we had a very special meeting with Don and Mike Oriolo at Felix the Cat Productions studio. We LOVE meeting our clients in person. As we work on their newest ideas and projects, we turn into total fans. We always get excited about client visits, but meeting amazingly creative and talented people from the studio that produced one of the world’s most iconic characters, Felix, that was truly a treat.

I am sure you immediately recognized this character. Felix is one of the most recognizable characters in the world. Whether you grew up in Japan or in Dubai, whether you’re 60 years old or 16, you know Felix. The character was born during the silent movie era and it evolved into a TV series in the mid-1950s catapulting Felix the Cat into a global phenomenon. Learn more about this fascinating character and the show.

There is no doubt that Felix the Cat ranks up there with Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, and Curious George. As I was surrounded by this black, white, and red cat character that magically made me feel warm and giggly, I wondered: why these characters? What is it about them that makes them feel so timeless and iconic? So we put on our researcher hats, dug into our archives, and uncovered three core elements that all timeless iconic characters share. Here they are:

1. Design: Here are four of the most timeless, iconic characters in the world: Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, Pikachu, and Doraemon. These character designs are masterfully simple. The lines are soft, curving, and clean, and the and color palettes are all high contrast. These designs are easily recognizable, relatable, and friendly -- you want to just hug them!

2. Personality: Doobry case studies have revealed that the most popular kids’ TV and animation characters have you rooting for the “everyman” -- the “girls next door” or “boys next door” - a normal kid/creature (sometimes in extraordinary circumstances) who is making mistakes to learn about the world, life, and oneself. The stories behind these characters are not about destinations, but rather the journey that makes their hidden strengths shine.

3. Spark of Human Emotion: There’s no doubt that these characters make us laugh and smile throughout their journeys. They are full of intrigue, curiosity and inspiration. They make us actually feel the joys of discovery, adventure, friendship, and love.

What can we learn from these characters to help us build more timeless and iconic brands? In this digital age, consumers expect that companies will behave -- and treat them -- like real people. Brand humanization is here to stay, as illustrated by these three global, iconic companies:

1. Apple & Design: Who else can I talk about other than Apple? Design has been the heart of its product development. We all know because we all own at least one or two products from this company. The simplicity, the soft edges and ergonomics, and the beauty of the designs embodied in their products -- this is all core to Apple’s iconic brand. Don’t get me started on its logo. ;)

2. Southwest & Personality: When you hear Southwest Airlines, what’s the first word that comes to your mind? (BTW, this is a simple exercise that we have our clients do for defining brand identity and voice). I think fun, quirky, humorous, friendly, and personable. Sure, the destination is kind of important in this case, but Southwest Airlines reminds us to enjoy the journey with humor and quirk. Fun brand persona is at the heart of everything that they do, which makes this brand iconic.

3. Coca-Cola & Spark of Human Emotion: There is a company that has built a global empire by associating its brand with happiness. No, not your therapist! Coca-Cola. Take a look at its 125 Years of Sharing Happiness report. Iconic brands make people feel joy, happiness, power (check out our previous post on empowering consumers), inspiration, and the security (peace of mind) both with their products and marketing.

What ties all three elements together? Love. Now, just wait a second and hear me out: customer centric, audience centric, client centric - we’ve all heard it. We all think we are doing it. But, do we really have it in our hearts? Do we care about them as we care about our friends and family?

Don Oriolo and the staff at Felix the Cat productions do. Don said in his facebook post, “Every living thing wants to feel love (in my opinion that is).” His genuine love of people and continuous effort to create content that makes people excited and laugh fuels the growth of Felix the Cat productions. It is so much fun to work with them, and we cannot wait to see the new icons they will introduce to the world!

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