Mascots might be the key to a successful TikTok strategy for brands!

By: Robin Borstein

The TikTok algorithm works in mysterious ways, but one thing’s for sure: Brand mascots have been popping up left and right on the platform lately.

Duolingo’s owl mascot, Duo, might be the category’s A-lister, helping the language-learning app rack up nearly 3 million followers on TikTok (compare that with McDonald’s, which currently has 2 million).

But Duolingo isn’t alone: Brands including Sour Patch Kids and The Empire State Building are also leaning into mascots as part of their TikTok strategy, finding that characters seem to resonate with users more than other types of content. While none have been able to pin down exactly why mascots perform especially well on the platform, some think it’s because they provide an easy vehicle for jumping on TikTok’s quickly changing trends.



Flying high

Duo’s often seen jumping on the same TikTok trends as its users. One recent video shows a crowd of people applauding Duo as a Christian worship song (that’s currently trending on TikTok) with the lyrics “our God is an awesome God” plays in the background. Text overlaid on the video says “when all you can say in French is bonjour.” It’s a little unhinged in the best way, as popular TikTok content often is.

Trial and error: But the brand hasn’t been committed to Duo from day one. When Duolingo first started creating TikTok content in February 2021, it tested lots of different TikTok strategies that didn’t include its mascot, Zaria Parvez, Duolingo’s social media coordinator, told Marketing Brew. Think: language-learning influencers teaching the audience words for different foods or slang in other languages.

  • Even though Parvez said that content seemed on-brand to her and, on average, received between 20k and 30k views, she noticed a huge jump in views when Duolingo started using its mascot in TikToks later that year. The mascot content “easily” generated a million views, Parvez told us.

  • Of course, it’s possible that TikToks featuring Duo only performed better than Duolingo’s early TikToks because they debuted after the account had some time to gain momentum. To be sure the increase in views came from Duo’s presence rather than time, Parvez tested some more Duo-free content later in the year. But those videos still didn’t perform as well as the content with the owl in it.

By the numbers: Currently, Parvez told us, Duolingo’s mascot-centric videos average 3–5 million views, with some hitting as many as 22 million. The brand’s TikTok content is all organic, with zero dollars spent on advertising.

The drawbacks to putting someone in a giant Duo costume for the videos are mostly logistical, per Parvez. “It’s hard to fit the suit through doors,” she joked.


Of course, it’s possible that TikToks featuring Duo only performed better than Duolingo’s early TikToks because they debuted after the account had some time to gain momentum. To be sure the increase in views came from Duo’s presence rather than time, Parvez tested some more Duo-free content later in the year. But those videos still didn’t perform as well as the content with the owl in it.


Currently, Parvez told us, Duolingo’s mascot-centric videos average 3–5 million views, with some hitting as many as 22 million. The brand’s TikTok content is all organic, with zero dollars spent on advertising.

The drawbacks to putting someone in a giant Duo costume for the videos are mostly logistical, per Parvez. “It’s hard to fit the suit through doors,” she joked.


Thank You for Reading!!!!

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