An Investigation into a Design Framework for Animated Online Characters to Promote Brands Effectively to Customers in China




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title


De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


This study presents a design framework for helping Chinese companies and designers to create effective animated cartoon characters for promoting brands. Previous research has demonstrated that animated characters which companies use to promote their brands appear to have a good chance of gaining and holding consumers’ attention. However, most relevant research in this area was conducted decades ago and focused on TV advertisements. There is little relevant research into new media advertisements featuring animated characters in an international context even though online advertising is growing. Furthermore, several academic researchers in China have begun to explore this topic without the benefit of practical research. As a result, the Animated Cartoon Promotional Characters (ACPC) are rarely developed and used although the animation industry has boomed in the Chinese market. ACPC for client companies which are created by commercial designers or design studios are not always in accordance with the preferences of their target customers. A design framework is therefore needed to provide a detailed design procedure for potential customer involvement. In order to achieve this, the Sanyuan Foods Company has been involved as a case study in this research. A series of surveys and focus groups with potential customers and interviews with Sanyuan and professional animators have been employed to improve the design process, to explore and identify more effective design procedures and to develop a design framework for the production of ACPCs.

Secondary research has also been conducted in order to trace the historical issues and growth of promotional characters which have been employed successfully by selected companies; to determine the design process and fundamental features, functions and narrative for these animated promotional characters; and to discuss the relationship between different age groups and promotional characters, customers' favour and loyalty.

The final framework has been evaluated by the development and testing of a “family“ of 2D and 3D hybrid computer characters for Sanyuan Foods and a series of short promotional animations and web site. Results show positive agreement with theoretical predictions and significant improvement over previous efforts. The research presented here has significant implications for future studies on branding strategy.



Spokes-character, promotional character, brand promotion, animation, cartoon character



Research Institute