Does the AA’s new brand ambassador stand on its own four paws?

August 2020

Brand mascots have steadily fallen out of favour with advertisers over the last decade or so, considered ‘old fashioned’ and perceived to stifle creativity.

As a research agency dedicated to effectiveness this trend has disappointed us greatly, particularly given branding (or ‘Connect’ as we refer to it) is where we see most advertising fail.

Mascots and other recurring devices aren’t just powerful because they become synonymous with the brand (thus making it instantly recognisable), but more importantly because they instantaneously elicit positive feelings and associations – making them extremely effective when deployed across secondary channels such as digital display and out-of-home.

We were delighted to see the launch of the AA’s newest construction (in a literal sense) – Tukker, a daydreaming canine. Like the rest of us, Tukker is yearning to hit the open road again as the UK comes out of lockdown.

What did motorists think of the AA’s new, friendly furry face? We used our three C’s framework to find out.

  • Captivate: Does it attract and retain attention, and engage in an emotional way?
  • Connect: Is the brand instantly recognisable?
  • Compel: Does it leave people with a lasting impression about the brand?

Captivate

The story was charming and playful, with Tukker simultaneously entertaining viewers and melting their hearts.

With lockdown taking a heavy toll on many Brits, ‘Love That Feeling’ tapped into a growing desire to escape the house and go exploring again. This was symbolised by Tukker attempting to recreate the feeling of sticking his head out a car window – reflecting the immense euphoria a dog gets from wind rushing through its fur.

Despite viewers being enamoured with Tukker, the analogy was largely missed – most people were left scratching their heads wondering what the ad was all about.

Connect

There was a concerted effort to attribute advertising memories to the AA, saturating every possible surface in the brand’s iconic yellow hue.

However, the AA is far from the only brand which uses yellow as its primary colour. So, while yellow may be a strong brand asset for the AA within an automotive or car insurance context, category cues are essential to frame these memories.
­
Three factors meant ‘Love That Feeling’ could’ve just as easily been for a brand such as Pedigree:

  1. The lead role being played by a dog
  2. Prominent use of yellow
  3. The vast majority missing the symbolism of a dog sticking its head out a car window

Compel

People attached the light-hearted and jovial tone of the ad to the AA itself, positioning the brand as equally ‘fun’ as it is ‘reliable’.

While ‘Love That Feeling’ didn’t have strong rational underpinnings, it did attempt to reassure motorists that the AA would be there to support them when the time was right.

However, confusion meant this message got lost, with the ad doing little to change or reinforce people’s perceptions of the AA. More importantly, it also failed to strengthen people’s emotional connection to the AA.

Conclusion

A brand ambassador is a long-term play – it takes many years (often decades) and considerable investment to make them synonymous with the brand. While we’d therefore expect branding to be weaker in the short-term, this isn’t to say steps can’t be taken to more quickly bed-in recurring devices.

The AA made a concerted effort to do this, supporting the introduction of Tukker with lavishings of yellow and integrating automotive cues. However, these references were too abstract, throwing people off the story and hindering the ad’s ability to imbue the desired emotional response. Could Tukker have been in a toy car in the living room instead? Could he have been depicted as a passenger in the vehicle while daydreaming?

While Tukker will no doubt go on to have a long and successful career tugging at viewers’ heartstrings, this example highlights how debilitating confusion can be – particularly when deploying an emotionally-led strategy and attempting to establish new branding properties.

Advertising Testing The AA Love That Feeling ad

This is a self-funded case study using our Advertising Testing solution.

We were supported by leading market research technology platform Cint to collect data from respondents in the UK.

Latest from the blog

Thank you for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.