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A Rendezvous with the Cartoon Characters in Consumer Products

Oya Demirbilek , Bahar Sener , Nancy Marshall , Annemarie Jonker

The basis of this paper is the observation that consumers? decisions for purchasing a product are made, amongst other reasons, on the basis of visual attraction. Purchase decisions are said to rest either with (i) the subconscious affective relationships associated with daily-use products, or (ii) the carefully crafted and planned affective relationships and emotion evocations of brand and product positioning in the advertisement world. This paper seeks to explore the nature of the first of these purchase influences, with the proposition that cartoon characters can be used as a vehicle for understanding consumers' visual-led product preferences. Consumers are known to show an emotional attachment to their favourite cartoon characters. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a similar emotional attachment is made with consumer products, and that cartoon character features can be one of the stimuli that evoke emotion. To test this proposition a two-stage questionnaire has been administered to potential users to identify their favourite cartoon characters and product preferences. Unknowing to the participants, each cartoon character and product were classed as either 'abstract', 'iconic' or 'realistic'. The subsequent data analysis focused on exploring any correlations between consumers' stated attraction to cartoon characters and to products. Correlations have been studied in relation to form, colour, layout and other visual attributes common to cartoon characters and consumer products. The paper presents a literature review and the preliminary survey results from a pre-test conducted. The second stage of research, having learned much from the pre-test, will be conducted later in 2004.


emotion and design; product character; cartoon character; choice of product