The Appeal of the Fictional Character

Twitter recently acquired its 200 millionth Twitterer and delivers 350 billion tweets a day! With the ever-increasing popularity of social media, companies have no excuse to pass up the vast number of potential customers. Although it appears that social media has provided companies with a room full of awaiting customers, how can your company stand out among the millions of other users? While this is much easier question to ask then to answer, some brands have found Twitter success through a unique and entertaining method: the fictional character. Such popular Tweeters are: Darth Vader, Homer Simpson, and King Cobra. Although, they may be famous characters in popular culture, it does point out an important fact that cannot be overlooked: each character represents a brand. I think the increase in such popular Tweeters provide an interesting and unique outlet for companies as they create, develop and hope to grow their brands. But how can a company encourage brand engagement?

Recently Mashable published an article titled, "The 10 Must-Follow Fictional Twitter Accounts," and it made me begin to wonder what attracts people to follow fictional characters tweets? Could this attraction to these characters be transferred to a brand trying to market their company? I believe these Twitter accounts have gained popularity and engaged users through:

  • Entertainment: Providing humor and entertainment in 140-characters of less is a very challenging feat, but it can be accomplished. With our country's ever-shortening attention-span, I believe Twitter has gained such popularity because it is an outlet that provides the user with brief updates without all the seemingly unnecessary details. There is no formula to encourage entertainment, but each Twitter is built around a character that a company has created and developed over the years. However, some popular Tweeters don't actually need years of developing, but they have spurred creation after making national news. Some examples include: the turtle on the runway at JFK, the snake that escaped from the Bronx Zoo, or the angry "Rahm Emanuel."

  • Lack of ulterior motives: People are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of advertisements every day and after a while we tend to block them out. Previously, advertising has been the company telling the consumer to do something, and it provided only one-way communication which was the company talking to the audience. However, social media has given the consumer a voice to speak to the company, may it be airing a complaint or offering a compliment. Now that the consumer has an outlet to freely voice their opinions, companies found other opportunities to engage the customer. While fictional characters may not obviously be trying to sell the consumer something, they are continuing to build and shape the company's brand through the continued use of the fictional character.

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