The Psychology Behind Character Animation in Marketing

24 min read

psychology of character animation

In the world of brand marketing, character animation is a powerful tool that captures attention, evokes emotions, and builds relationships between brands and their audiences. But why is this? The answer lies in our human psychology.

We have previously explored the role of evolution and neuroscience in creative storytelling, but for this blog, we’ll delve into the fascinating interplay between psychology and character animation, and consider how a little bit of know-how could improve your brand marketing strategy efforts.

Importance of Character Animation in Content Marketing

Brand marketing in the digital age is demanding for consumers and marketers alike. Platforms, websites, and physical spaces are awash with multiple messages competing for attention at any one time. For marketing professionals, it is a constant challenge to build engagement with their target audience in meaningful and memorable ways.

One powerful element of a video content marketer’s toolbox is character animation. It is a technique that leverages our innate human ability to recognise and connect with animated figures.

Research has shown that our brains are wired to respond to faces and human-like movements, a phenomenon known as pareidolia. It’s a peculiar trait found in most primates and is believed to be linked with increased creativity.

When we see an animated character, we instinctively open to the possibility that it could be like us. We assign human traits and emotions to it, thus making it more relatable and engaging.

By employing character animation within your brand market strategy, you can tap into a deep-rooted psychological need, which will then lead to more relatable content and a more resonant message.

The Role of Characters in Content Marketing

Characters are helpful in marketing because they act as the face of a brand, enhancing brand recognition and recall. A well-designed character can encapsulate a brand’s personality and values, making it easier for audiences to understand and relate to the brand.

Using illustrated characters in marketing is a great way to remove bias and ensure your brand remains free from any preconceived notions of race, gender, or disability that can affect live-action advocates.

Animated characters can be designed in any anthropomorphic form, without replicating true human traits. This allows them to reach a broader target market while still representing the brand’s values and personality.

By approaching character design in this way, you can create an inclusive environment where people can feel seen and heard regardless of their background or identity, allowing companies to develop meaningful connections with customers by appealing to their sense of belongingness.

The other benefit of animated characters is that they can be fun and enduring. Consider these famous brand mascots.

  1. Tony the Tiger
  2. Mr Plante
  3. M&M
  4. Alexander Orlov
  5. Michelin Man
  6. The Duracell Bunny


These characters are instantly recognisable and have become synonymous with their respective brands. They not only capture attention but also evoke specific feelings and associations that strengthen the brand’s identity, and in many cases have transcended brand marketing and become embedded in popular culture.

Captivating Attention with Animated Characters

In the realm of brand marketing, character animation is a potent tool that can significantly influence consumer behaviour. By appealing to the cognitive (thought) and affective (emotional) processes of viewers, animated videos can boost brand recognition and drive purchasing decisions. For instance, the use of lively animations in the Red Bull commercials not only grabs attention but also creates an association of energy and adventure with the product.

Animation has a particularly strong impact when it comes to low-involvement products or situations – those that require little thought or research before purchasing. This is explained by the tripartite attitudinal model, a psychological theory suggesting that our thoughts (cognition) and feelings (affect) about a brand can motivate us to act, such as making a purchase. For example, consider how the cute M&M characters bring humour and personality to the brand, making the chocolates even more irresistible.

The effectiveness of animation in advertising isn’t limited to just grabbing attention or evoking emotions. Research shows it plays a vital role in every aspect of attitude formation towards a brand – cognition, affection, and conation (motivation to act). A great example of this is ComparetheMarket’s Meerkats, one of the most recognisable brand mascots. Their charming personality and witty dialogues not only make the commercials entertaining but also create a positive perception of ComparetheMarket, promoting the price comparison site as a friendly and reliable price brand consumers can trust.

Establishing Emotional Connection through Character Animation

One of the key strengths of character animation is its ability to establish an emotional connection with the audience. By attributing human emotions and experiences to animated characters, marketers can evoke specific emotions in their audience and create a deeper sense of connection.

For instance, when a character in an animated explainer video struggles with a problem that your product or service can solve, you will evoke empathy in your audience. This emotional engagement can increase the perceived value of your solution and motivate the audience to take action.

Building Trust and Reliability with an Animated Character

Animated characters have the power to bridge the gap between brands and their target market. They can simplify complex messages, evoke emotions, and create a sense of connection that few other marketing mediums can match.

But what makes an animated character truly resonate with audiences? The answer lies in a careful blend of key character traits.

1. Authenticity

An authentic character feels real and relatable. They reflect true human behaviour and emotions, making it easier for the audience to connect.

For example, a character that shows vulnerability and awareness in difficult situations or joy in minor victories can make your brand feel more human and trustworthy.

The character we animated for Axa’s internal employee engagement film must overcome several struggles as it strives to reach its goal. The character does not shy from its challenges.

2. Consistency

Consistency in a character’s behaviour, appearance, or voice across different marketing campaigns can solidify its image in the audience’s mind, enhancing trust and reliability. A character who always responds calmly in stressful situations, for instance, can become a symbol of your brand’s reliability.

Our animated explainer video company created a series of films for Brooks MacDonald all featuring the same calm girl being helped by a gentle hand.

3. Positivity

Characters that exude positivity leave a positive impression on the audience, enhancing brand perception. A character that maintains an optimistic outlook, even in challenging situations, can create an upbeat brand image that resonates with audiences.

This brand launch film for BarthhaasX took the company’s MD, a popular and energetic industry figure and created a character animation to reflect his positive, solution mindset.

4. Empathy

Characters that showcase empathy can deeply resonate with viewers. By understanding and sharing the feelings of the audience, empathetic characters foster a deep emotional connection, driving brand loyalty.

Characters can work well in an animated video for a charity, and through our work with Climate Outreach, we have developed a series of simple, empathetic characters who take part in positive action to prevent climate change.

5. Uniqueness

Unique characters are memorable and stand out from the crowd. Characters that break stereotypes or exhibit distinct traits grab attention. A character with a unique hobby or an unusual way of looking at the world can help your brand carve out a distinctive identity.

For the WPP agency, Xaxis, we developed a brand marketing strategy around a series of characters for a series of learning and development animations, featuring characters who were as dynamic and unique as the people that worked for the agency.

Character animation plays a pivotal role in brand marketing, especially in building trust and reliability. By leveraging traits like authenticity, consistency, positivity, empathy, and uniqueness, you can create animated characters that deeply connect with your audience, humanise your brand, and build lasting relationships.

It’s important to remember, it’s not just about creating a character; it’s about bringing your brand to life in the minds of your audience.

Leveraging Brand Identity through Character Animation

When it comes to developing a brand marketing strategy, it’s worth remembering that a well-crafted animated character can become the face of a brand, creating an emotional bond that goes beyond the typical business-customer relationship.

Let’s delve into the art and science of designing branded characters and their significance in bolstering your brand identity.

Creating Memorable Characters: The First Step to Brand Recognition

In the crowded marketplace, the need for brands to stand out is paramount. This is where the creation of memorable and distinguishable characters comes into play. A well-designed character serves as an embodiment of the brand, personifying its values, and establishing a unique brand identity. Such characters are not merely mascots; they are the faces that consumers associate with the brand.

Character Design: A Blend of Art and Psychology

Beyond aesthetics, effective character design is deeply rooted in understanding human psychology.

Studies have shown that certain colours, shapes, and design elements can influence perceptions and emotions. For instance, characters designed with warm colours and rounded shapes often elicit feelings of friendliness and approachability. On the other hand, cool colours and angular shapes can convey sophistication and seriousness.

By leveraging these principles, brands can create characters that resonate with their target audience, reflect their values and ultimately deliver brand marketing success.

Core Principles of Effective Character Design

When it comes to designing successful characters, three principles take centre stage: silhouette, palette, and exaggeration.

Silhouette: The silhouette of a character should be distinctive and easily recognisable. It might even simulate the shape of a particular product, thus contributing to instant brand recognition.

Palette: The colour palette used for a character should align with the brand’s colour scheme, reinforcing consistency across all visual assets.

Exaggeration: Exaggeration in character design, such as enlarging the eyes or minimizing certain features, helps create striking, memorable characters that captivate the audience.

How Branded Characters Elevate Your Brand Marketing Strategy

Designing branded characters does more than just add visual appeal; it significantly enhances the overall brand marketing strategy of companies.

Animated characters can be used across various promotional materials, from animated explainer videos and website animations to interactive animations at events.

For instance, an animated explainer video featuring a branded character can make complex concepts more digestible and engaging, enhancing customer understanding and retention of your product or service.

Similarly, incorporating character animation on your website can improve user experience, leading to longer site visits and higher engagement rates.

Effective Storytelling through Animated Characters

Humans are inherently drawn to stories. From the dawn of civilization, narratives have served as a means to communicate, educate, and entertain.

Today, in the realm of marketing, storytelling has taken a new form – animated characters. But why are we so captivated by these animated video narratives? How do they serve to deliver the right message?

The answer lies in our evolutionary history. Our brains are hardwired to respond to stories as they were vital for our survival. Early humans used cave drawings to convey hunting strategies and convey crucial survival information. Just as these prehistoric narratives served to pass down knowledge, in today’s explainer videos, animated stories help brands impart their values and messages effectively.

Animated characters, like Charlie’s Cat from 1980s COI adverts, epitomise successful storytelling – the message that children should be wary of strangers was so well communicated that forty years later, people still remember the film, its unusual cat and the boy’s catchphrase “Charlie says…”.

Several psychological theories explain our affinity for storytelling:

The Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning

This suggests that people learn better from words and pictures than from words alone, this is because the part of our brain for processing words is comparatively small.

Animated characters, with their vibrant visuals and compelling narratives, provide the perfect blend of these elements, making information processing more effective and enjoyable.

The theory of narrative transportation

This happens when people lose themselves in a story, and their attitudes and intentions change to reflect that story. In the context of brand marketing, this means that consumers who are ‘transported’ by a brand’s story are more likely to have positive attitudes towards the brand and its products.

Neural Ballet Theory

Neuroscience provides further insight into this phenomenon. Our brains, when engaged with a story, activate multiple areas, including those responsible for sensory experiences and emotional processing. This immersive ‘neural ballet’ not only enhances the audience’s engagement but also aids in better recall and understanding of the information presented.

Understanding the psychology behind storytelling with animated characters can significantly enhance any brand marketing strategy.

It’s about leveraging our innate love for stories and our brain’s unique processing abilities to create compelling narratives that resonate with the audience.

Remember, a well-crafted animated story doesn’t just sell a product; it creates an experience, builds relationships, and leaves a lasting impression.


In wrapping up, it’s clear that the psychology behind character animation is a potent tool in marketing and branding. This fascinating intersection of art, science, and psychology forms the bedrock of effective character design, shaping memorable and engaging explainer videos with characters that resonate with audiences on a deeply emotional level.

Throughout this exploration, we’ve delved into the inherent human attraction to stories, the evolutionary basis of this affinity, and the transformative power of animated characters in narrating brand stories.

We’ve also highlighted key principles that guide successful character design and underscored the significant role that animated characters play in enhancing overall branding and marketing strategies.

An award-winning animated explainer video company

Content Creatures is creative agency specialising in animation, motion design and branding. We are experts in animation and explainer video production. In every project, we harness our profound understanding of character animation psychology to deliver compelling, effective, and high-quality animated content.

Our award-winning team of creatives is adept at crafting unique animated characters that not only capture attention but also encapsulate your brand values, strengthen your brand identity, and foster an enduring connection with your audience.

If you are interested in exploring effective and engaging character animation with Content Creatures, whether through animated explainer videos, captivating website animations, or interactive event animations, we’d like to hear from you. We’re committed to elevating your brand and bringing your story to life.

Take the next step in your animation journey with Content Creatures. Contact us today to learn more about our animated character videos and discover how we can catapult your brand to new heights.

With Content Creatures, your brand story is in expert hands.