No love for Mr. Mucus: RB's Mucinex character ranks as least likable among mascots in study

Comedian Jason Mantzoukas is the voice of RB cold brand Mucinex's spokescharacter Mr. Mucus, chosen as the least-loved mascot in a new study. (Gage Skidmore)

Consumers love to hate Reckitt Benckiser's Mr. Mucus. In a new study, the Mucinex spokescharacter ranked the lowest in all five categories that queried consumers about their feelings about mascots.

Mr. Mucus ranked as the most annoying, most creepy, least likable, least personable and least trustworthy among the 82 spokescharacters studied in the survey from Crestline Promotional Products.

It’s probably not terribly surprising, considering he is a wise-cracking green and slimy snot monster. However, there is a bit of a silver lining for RB. People easily remember Mr. Mucus and connect him to the Mucinex brand. In unaided recognition, 61.4% of people were able to name the brand just by looking at a picture of Mr. Mucus.

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While Crestline data analyst Cindy Glover said it was beyond the scope of the study to determine whether Mr. Mucus’ performance was good or bad for the brand, she did point out that companies usually discontinue using mascots that don’t work. Mr. Mucus has repped the brand for 15 years.

RB, for its part, actually agrees with the survey findings, although it did point out that Mr. Mucus isn't its mascot. 

“We agree that Mr. Mucus is thoroughly annoying—after all, he is the personification of your most annoying cold. Far from being our mascot, though, it is our sole goal to help get rid of him whenever he tries to invade our lives. Which is why every American knows that when sick happens, we reach for Mucinex," Elyse Altabet, marketing director for Mucinex at RB, said.

The most memorable mascot in the survey was Starbucks’ mermaid, with 95.6% of surveyed consumers able to link it to the brand by just the image. It was followed by the Colonel from KFC, the Geico Gecko, M&M spokescandies and Ronald McDonald for McDonald’s.

The most likable mascot was Pillsbury’s Poppin’ Fresh Doughboy. Mr. Mucus had company in the most annoying category from the Aflac Duck, not far behind him, and in the most creepy category, where the King from Burger King and Jack from Jack in the Box came in second and third, respectively. There were no pharma or other OTC spokescharacters included in the survey.

Glover said the intent of the study was not only to gauge consumer sentiment about particular mascots but also to see how well the spokescharacters are aging. That is, are brands diversifying communications into social media and digital realms and updating their mascots sufficiently to capture younger generations’ attention?

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For brands, loved or not, the more important lesson is remaining relevant. The most recognized brands cross from TV to print to digital with ease, Glover said, and evolve messaging and update looks as they adapt to current culture. The study found that almost all the spokescharacters have social media accounts, including Mr. Mucus.

“The overall takeaway is that even a century-old character can continue to make an impression, but it has to evolve,” she said.