Master marketers have been using mascots to influence children for decades, and now schools are learning how to use the same techniques to engage students with their PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) programs. More than just a tool for promoting school spirit, mascots are now being used as a role model to demonstrate what good behavior looks like in a school setting.
It’s a smart move – a catalyst that can accelerate data driven results. Beyond providing an endearing character that students gravitate towards, a well-crafted mascot campaign can help children form their self-image, and consequently, their decisions and behavior. There is a science to it.
For example, the moment a child says the words “I am a tiger,” they are stating an affirmation that makes the tiger part of their self-image; and it’s human nature to act consistent with one’s self-image. They ARE a tiger! If they know how a tiger acts, they will tend to choose tiger-like actions, and make tiger-like decisions. Control the tiger, and you control an incredibly powerful part of the child’s mind.
Being a tiger means they are also part of a community of tigers; and belonging to any group comes with intrinsic benefits, and rules. They can enjoy relationships and camaraderie when they operate within the group’s social rules. Setting up the Tiger Rules is at the heart of PBIS programs, and helps you leverage the social incentives associated with being a group member. Following “Tiger Rules” is so much more enticing than following “School Rules.”
One of the primary goals of PBIS programs is to create a new climate, and creating a climate is like creating a new brand. It’s a classic marketing challenge, so it’s best to use a classic marketing tool that is proven successful – a mascot. Doubt it? – Just walk down the cereal isle of any grocery store.
Professional marketers are very clever and know how to reach children. For example, did you know that Captain Crunch’s eyes point slightly downward? That’s so, when a box is high on the shelf, he can make eye contact with the little people who so often drive the purchase decision. What does that mean to you? Simple – make sure your mascot is rendered with larger, engaging eyes and a bright, friendly smile. So many school mascots get this terribly wrong – featuring angry, snarling expressions on muscled-up monster-like creatures. Go with a kid-friendly design.
Marketers also know that some type of struggle makes a character more endearing and relatable. That’s why the Trix Rabbit is always frustrated by not being able to get his hands on Trix. It’s why Sonny the Cuckoo Bird always goes nuts for Coco Puffs. It’s also why Lucky the Leprechaun is always being chased for his Lucky Charms. We all like to pull for the underdog. We can relate! Again – it’s human nature.
So how can you give your mascot an endearing struggle? Use the Crystal Tears story published by PBIS Teaching Tools. It’s an uplifting story that delivers a good message about bullying. Simply change the mascot to whatever your school uses, and you’ll have the kids on the edge of their seat, pulling for their mascot, three minutes into story time.
There are a lot of facets involved in building a vibrant climate. Consistency is critical. From an implementation standpoint, every team member must be on the same page, using the same tools, and applying the same rules. From a brand-building perspective, consistency is also critical, and that is why it’s wise to use your school mascot as the common thread running through all PBIS messaging.
Marketers know that a jingle or campaign slogan can rattle around in your brain for a long, long time; so why not use the same technique to reinforce your PBIS program. These simple little ditties can be repeated by your students at the beginning of assemblies or after saying the pledge of allegiance. They are a potent reminder of the community they belong to, feature commonly used acronyms (SOAR, ROAR and PRIDE), and are a powerful affirmation that begins with the words “I am.”
I am an eagle. Watch me soar. I am an eagle, forever more!
I am a panther. Hear me ROAR. We are panthers. We stand for:… Respect! Organization! Acceptance! Responsibility!
I am a bulldog, full of PRIDE. We are bulldogs, side-by-side
The words “I am” are the two most powerful words on the face of the Earth. If you’ve studied the science of affirmations, you know why. To say “I will” is a promise to do something in the future, and we all know the future holds a lot of unknowns, so as an affirmation, it is weak. To say “I want” is simple expressing a desire, and it doesn’t mean you will actually go and get what you want. We all have examples of unfulfilled wants and desires. To say “I am” is a proclamation of a current state. It is done – completed. No turning back. It cements the affirmation like no other words. It is, perhaps, by no coincidence that the Bible refers to God as the great I Am.
Consistency is critical in PBIS programs, and it’s also essential in branding campaigns, so it should be no surprise that it’s equally important when endeavoring to create a new culture. That’s why a mascot can play an important role as the common thread that runs through all communications.
The trick is keeping your campaign fresh and interesting when, in most cases, all you have is a single illustration of your mascot. One solution comes from Mascot Junction. The company offers clipart sets that include a robust illustration collection of the same mascot, doing a variety of school related activities. Their library has clipart sets for more than 50 of the most common mascots. You get consistency because they are all drawn in the same style. Mascot Junction also provides custom illustrations of your mascot demonstrating positive behaviors for your specific PBIS theme. Their PBIS Roll Out Kits are specifically designed for mascot-centric PBIS programs. In addition to clipart, they also provide custom designed posters, banners, gotcha reward templates and other visual aids to launch a positive climate building campaign centered around your mascot.