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Totes McGoats: Brilliant Public Relations or Accidental Genius?

5 min read
October 15, 2015

totes_blog(Photo Courtesy of WGRZ)

Our Martin Davison PR team weighs in on the Totes McGoats phenomenon, analyzing the PR impact and potential of this creepy mascot from Niagara Falls.

Brilliant strategic PR move or accidental genius? Tell us what you think.

Oliver Hays (Senior PR Manager): So this Totes McGoats character is breaking the internet; seriously, Twitter was down this morning. I think he’s not just a creepy goat mascot and this is actually a brilliant PR move. What other small city gets this kind of attention for a recycling initiative?

John Jiloty (Social Media Director): Can’t argue that it’s a brilliant PR move when you look at the millions of dollars in media coverage from the likes of Time, Mashable, Huffington Post, etc. But as a city that doesn’t exactly have a stellar image right now, I can’t imagine they gambled with an ironic satirical mascot they thought would get PR for being SO bad. This was 100% accidental. It may be good for recycling (up to 23% participation from 4%), but is it good for the city?

Oliver: I think the national coverage, even of a satirical goat mascot, is a win for Niagara Falls. The city has a lot of work to do, no question, and a silly mascot won’t begin to solve all the issues there. But, they aren’t in a position to be choosy about coverage that isn’t about the lack of growth on the American side of the falls. To me, there’s no way they lucked into this thing. This was an intentional campaign (couldn’t have cost much – that’s the worst goat head since the old Sabres logo) to raise awareness for something that normally would have fallen on deaf ears and not piqued the interest of any media.

John: Does being hokey and fun take away from a serious PR campaign? Living in the social media world, I know well the dumb stuff that can become viral (whether by accident or on purpose), but sometimes I worry that messaging gets lost. Obviously getting people’s attention is the No. 1 goal of any PR/marketing campaign. But is it jab-jab-right hook as Gary Vaynerchuk would say, or in the case of something like this is it a big right hook at the start that knocks everyone out and no one knows what was being communicated?

Oliver: The hokey and fun will play up nationally. In Niagara Falls, where the campaign truly matters, people will recognize it and seek it out. Then the real message will get through – recycle! In this case, gimmicky works. Do you think the social media back lash, or mocking, will ultimately impact the success of our friend Totes?

John: On social, impressions and influencers are vital. So getting mentioned by media outlets and creating a character that people are aware of is an important part of pushing your message. And it’s hard to argue with the uptick in actual recycling. Sending Totes around to local schools to promote recycling is great too – much more effective than a politician or employee. I would say they need to maximize this national buzz and really double-down on Totes – Twitter needs to be smarter and funnier and they should get him on Instagram and Snapchat too. Could Totes become the entire city’s mascot, pushing more than just recycling? Given this response, I don’t see why not.

Oliver was featured in a special Totes McGoats Channel 2- WGRZ news segment last night (October 15)!

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