How We Used Illustrated Characters to Reach Kids

By Stephanie Sprouse

If you’re not sure illustrated characters are effective brand mascots, try walking down the cereal aisle at your local grocery store. Those characters connect with kids on an emotional level that other marketing methods can’t match. Why? Because Tony the Tiger isn’t just a mascot; he’s fun, happy, cool, and most importantly – he’s your friend. Big brands have mastered the use of animated spokespeople, but companies of every size can benefit from the love of a character.

Our friends at the Green Valley Book Fair wanted to make reading fun. They also wanted to spark creativity, and to encourage kids to experience the joy of jumping into the pages of a book. In order to spark creativity, you need to be creative, so we sat down, got silly, and started doodling.

First things first: it needs to be an animal.

Why an animal? Because when a child sees an animal with human qualities, he or she immediately gives it life. There’s a science behind it that I won’t go into, but it makes a child’s imagination work harder, and that’s the goal.

Second: animal choice matters.

No one is going to listen to a goldfish about reading; it needs to be an animal that’s known for being smart or witty. It also needs to be fluffy and adorable. Snakes and spiders certainly have their place in the animal kingdom, but when it comes to making the general public smile, nothing beats a ball of fluff with big eyes.

Sketches of book fair characters

The original sketches for the book fair characters, including what later became Dodger, Reid, Owlie, and Kennedy

Third: think about the age group.

We wanted a smart animal, but we also wanted something toddlers would love and older kids would find cool. We had to think about the animal and how the animal was drawn in order to fit this large age group.

Booker_anatomy

Booker is born.

With great collaboration, the sly, mischievous, and witty fox Booker was dubbed the face of Adventure Tales, and donned a bandana as a unique identifier and illustration of his adventurous nature.

Booker was chosen because he captured the combination of cute and fluffy feel with the attitude of an adolescent.

Kids step inside Booker’s world.

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To really make Booker more than a drawing, we had to establish a world. We made a corner of the book fair into Booker’s room, complete with a wooden Booker. On your way in, you can see how tall you are compared to him, or you can become Booker with the face cutout. He’s become quite the celebrity.

13585234_1122251941188152_6300231348749359850_o13606816_10153751234178657_8182321386118288546_nWhat was once a drawing in a sketchbook is now something people can interact with in a way that makes it feel real. It fills me with joy to see all the kids walking out of the book fair sporting an Adventure Tales t-shirt and sticker, families sitting in his room, or people of all ages posing for a picture as Booker and his friend Paige. These characters have become a part of the book fair, and they allow everyone who visits to become a part of it too.

The best part about creating Booker and what later became his friends, is that it’s not over. Booker – in our minds – is a living, breathing character in his own world. He loves to read, play in his room, and hang out with his best friends. His story, along with that of his friends, will continue to grow with the book fair. The results of this project have shown me that characters are a fun way to bring out the kid in all of us.

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