One more January 20th penguin

For Penguin Awareness Day, one more spheniscid moment, this time from Canada, where the creatures infest the banking industry.


(#1) Percy the Penguin, mascot of CIBC (formerly Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce; CIBC is now an orphan initialism), in a 2015 ad

(Hat tip to reader Martin Mulligan.)

From the Marketing magazine site, “CIBC pushes new brand position with Percy the Penguin” by David Brown on 5/20/15:

CIBC is putting Percy the penguin front and centre to give the brand a more human touch for the modern era.

The bank has updated its business strategy to better meet the needs of the modern consumer and is promoting the shift through a new brand positioning and ad campaign starring Percy, which launched Monday. Percy will be familiar to many Canadians as the protagonist in advertising for CIBC’s Aventura travel points program since October 2013.

Note that a cartoon penguin provides “a more human touch” for the company. It’s the marvel of anthropomorphism — a topic taken up in some detail in a piece on the Medium.com site, “Cartoon Animals: The New Celebrity Endorsement” by Brittney Stafl on 7/31/17 (quoted here as is, without any editing or stylistic commentary on my part):

In the past, advertisements of everyday, standardized concepts have been saturated with human figures that have been thought to bring a sense of reality to a system. While good looking, cookie cutter stock models have plastered the walls of everyday institutions since the birth of marketing, the need for a rebrand of the “sea of sameness” has erupted, or should I say, illustrated. When it comes to the world of banking, the old formula of people demonstrating human behaviours has manipulated into one that turns to animated animals to exemplify standard practices. Yes, it does hold the now important “cute appeal” in a millennial era, but further it validates that consumers now find it simpler to relate to a cartoon penguin named Percy rather than someone who physically fits their own demographic. Despite the fact that penguins (traditionally) do not hold the necessary body parts to enable the usage of mobile banking or use frequent flyer points to travel the world, CIBC has placed Percy the penguin at the front of their marketing campaign.

Percy, a classic black and white, simply executed penguin first made his introduction into the banking world in 2015. Since then, Percy has proven that he, much like the average Canadian, has a rewards program credit card, takes his family on vacation and even plays ball hockey with Connor McDavid.


(#2) Percy and his family (Canadian through and through)

Although CIBC made the move to go back to the classic “celebrity endorsing” advertising strategy, Percy still held a higher standing ground than a NHL player, a situation that normally would be unheard of in the great north. However, the question quickly becomes: why a penguin? How can an animated bird from Antarctica increase the average CIBC user’s experience when it comes to “banking that fits your life”?

Every major Canadian bank holds a mascot, whether it is a green chair or a gentleman in a bowler hat and sharp suit. Each one trying to stand out from the rest of the banking game through bubbled animation. While a green armchair looks more inviting than two people talking at you about their mortgage goals and adjustments, it lacks an opportunity for the client to connect to the product. For endless decades, marketing big shots have been trying to reinvent the wheel, or in less classic terms, take the same standardized, boring service and make it seem new, exciting and most of all, desirable. When it comes to these standardized services, they have been drilled into society as a necessity. No option, no opinion. Just choices. Which cellphone provider? Which bank? Which company appeals to me as an individual consumer?

The idea of UX design [“user experience design … the process of enhancing user satisfaction with a product by improving the usability, accessibility, and pleasure provided in the interaction with the product” (Wikipedia link)] is one that aims to create a strategy that appeals to the experience of the user. While it aims to make the experience of the consumer more legible and independent, it has also encompassed the ability of the consumer to relate to a product, layout or advertisement. In an age dominated by the millennial mindset, the ability to relate to everything, to feel like an individual, is key. So far with Percy, this is achieved. Despite the fact that he, as a penguin, does not have fingers to type, work an ipad, or use utensils, this penguin has become easier to relate to than the past approaches of “real” people.


(#3) Percy enjoying an ice cream sundae

Percy provides a sense of ease to every day tasks, showcasing how you can use new innovated ways to deposit cheques from your bathtub [see #1  above]. Having a sense of hilarity is not Percy’s life goal. As explained by Terry Drummond, executive creative director for CIBC, the goal of the penguin is to physically illustrate human connection. Everyday frustrations one may have with their banking life, solved and shown in a different way from its competitors.

2 Responses to “One more January 20th penguin”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Giving the penguin a rubber ducky is a nice touch.

  2. [BLOG] Some Tuesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky, looking at penguins around the world, notices the CIBC mascot Percy the […]

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