Mascots have become an unpopular choice of copy these days. They are associated with the previous century, with unscrupulous attempts to market to children, and with a laziness that is unbecoming of the modern, cynical consumer.
But many of those older mascots are still around, and flourishing. Colonel Sanders has become such a global zeitgeist figure future anthropologists may conclude he was a popular deity. Charlie the Tuna, Tony the Tiger, and the Marlboro Man (all creations of Leo Burnett, a personal hero) are still around and still responsible for huge increases in brand awareness.
Additionally, several mascots still create immediate recognition and humanization of modern brands. The Geico Gecko, Captain Obvious for Hotels.com, and Nyango Star (pictured above) are just a few examples.
If your brand has a broad consumer base, and little in the way of human representation, a mascot can be the difference between being iconic, and being forgettable.