Nobody wants to be like Mr. Six

July 26, 2004


When you create an advertising icon, it’s easy to fall into a trap.

On the one hand, the objective of an icon is to get prospects to identify with the brand. Literally you want prospects to put themselves in the place of the icon. If I buy the brand I can do what the icon can do.

“Be like Mike,” for example for Gatorade. “If I drink Gatorade, I can be a superstar like Michael Jordan.” While no one believes that they can actually become a superstar in the NBA, there is a strong connotation that the brand will improve their performance in all sports.”

In essence, you believe the Gatorade commercials because you want to believe.

On the other hand, the creator of an advertising icon also wants the icon itself to become famous. That’s why there’s a strong pressure to create icons that are unusual and different. (The essence of creativity.)

Enter Mr. Six.

Six Flags is spending $100 million dollars on a global advertising campaign featuring a character named Mr. Six, a slightly creepy dancing geezer who proclaims “It’s Playtime!”

Mr. Six has been the talk of the nation, appearing on television talk and news shows, he (or she no one is quite sure) has his own blog and a hot merchandise line. According to Intermedia Advertising Group the ads have been among the top 10 most recalled ads.

And while the Mr. Six ads have been the bomb, attendance at Six Flags has flopped. Attendance figures are down 4 percent from last year. Clearly the ads have gained talk value but for whom? Mr. Six or Six Flags?

The main problem of the advertisements has to do with the ability of prospects to put themselves in the place of the icon.

Who are the prospects for Six Flags? Teenagers and young adults. Be like Mike, maybe. But be like Mr. Six? I think not.

Advertising people often justify attention-getting advertising on the grounds that it makes the product famous. But the reality is attention-getting advertising usually only makes the advertising famous. It wins advertising agencies lots of awards and helps them gain new clients. But what successful advertising should do is drive sales not win awards.

It is certainly not a new phenomenon. Think about other advertising icons that did little to help sales for their brands:

Chihuahua for Taco Bell
Joe Isuzu for Isuzu
Sock Puppet for
Priceless for MasterCard
Spongmonkeys for Quiznos

Six Flags needs an idea. What do they stand for? The parks are in trouble, many have complained about broken rides, shabby-looking equipment, and hidden costs.

Mr. Six has plenty of shock value. Everybody notices Mr. Six but nobody want to be Mr. Six. Do you want an advertising success like Mr. Six or a marketing success? (If you are the advertising agency, your answer might be different.)

So if you want your advertising icon to be a marketing success, then ask yourself this question: Is my icon an individual that prospects will personally identity with?