All About Mascots with Peter Madden

This article was featured in the online version of Philadelphia Business Journal on October 8, 2018.

Please Touch Museum caps off rebranding with its 1st-ever mascot

It may be the year of the mascot in Philadelphia, which has another fuzzy creature to call its own. This time, it comes not from a sports team, but an arts and cultural institution leaving its financial woes behind it.

The Please Touch Museum officially emerged out of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection it filed for in September 2015. And, in the two years since, officials have been on the path to rebuilding the institution’s reputation, finances and visitation — which year to date reached 503,000 people, up 2 percent from the previous year.

The children’s museum in 2017 introduced a new mission and strategic plan before rolling out new visual identity earlier this year. The new identity comprises a new logo, brand story and tagline, which officials developed with Center City marketing agency Tierney.

To cap off the new visual identity, Please Touch officials recently unveiled a new mascot, named Squiggles, who represents the last phase of the rebranding process.

The new mascot is an extension of the “friendly monster” found on the new Please Touch logo, and the museum’s new mission and promise of being a key resource of learning through play.

“Squiggles, like our logo, mirrors the memorable experiences of our young visitors that happen every moment at PTM,” President and CEO Patricia Wellenbach told the Philadelphia Business Journal. “Squiggles’ large eyes speak to a child’s curious nature. The openness of their body and hair reflects a child’s tremendous capacity to take in a lot of information and a limitless imagination.”

The name “Squiggles” was a result of a contest, in which more than 1,400 visitors shared ideas. More than 2,500 people voted on the top 5 names and Squiggles was chosen.

“Squiggles was inspired by the work we did with Tierney in developing our new brand, but the creation of the character came from our PTM team,” Wellenbach said.

The museum created an interdepartmental “task force” that worked on creating a character profile, and it partnered with Canada-based Maydwell Mascots to bring Squiggles to life.

The purple creature plays an important role in advancing the children’s museum’s new mission and strategic plan.

“Squiggles will play a large role in our visitors’ experience,” said Wellenbach, who said the mascot will appear during the museum’s programming, like story times, and special events, like Please Touch Museum’s OutFest Family festival on Saturday.

A number of Philadelphia-area organizations in the last two years debuted mascots:

Mascots act as brand ambassadors that can engage with audiences on site, at events and on social media.

Squiggles is particularly noteworthy because it also further pushes Please Touch Museum’s story of restructuring and growth after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“For Please Touch Museum, a mascot can be a living embodiment of all of the positive assets inherent” at the museum, said Peter Madden, president and CEO of Philadelphia branding agency AgileCat, which has its own mascot, Catnip.

Mascots can also induce economy impact and additional revenue streams for an organization through merchandise.

“I applaud the strategy and think if Squiggles is used with appropriate frequency and in clever ways, it’s a great way to bring the Please Touch Museum to life as they enter a new chapter as a kid-friendly destination,” Madden said.

Mascots must be utilized strategically for results.

“If a company is going to have a mascot, it needs to do much more than just exist and high five people,” Madden said. “There needs to be a hardcore marketing strategy at the heart of the design of the mascot as well as how it can be woven into the overarching brand expression.”

If a company develops a mascot, it needs to go “all in” and utilize the mascot in smart ways, he said.

“From appearances at events to leveraging a mascot in advertisements and social media, it’s all about driving the right kind of attention for the brand,” Madden said.

AgileCat’s 6-foot Catnip, for instance, is featured on the agency’s social media pages, and it has its own Instagram page.

For Please Touch, Squiggles and the entire rebranding effort, can be framed around the museum’s success while engaging with its target demographic.

“Squiggles was created to welcome and represent all children from all communities and from the wide array of families that come to PTM every day,” Wellenbach said. “Squiggles will be a part of Philadelphia and the surrounding communities. Squiggles is not a boy or girl, it is a character that embraces all children and makes them feel valued and special.”