Gumby, Parking, and Toledo Ticket
Case Study: Making an icon a corporate mascot. Here’s how The Toledo Ticket Company turned a cartoon character into their corporate ‘spokesperson.’ Did it help? Read on.
At first glance, Gumby is not a character you might associate with the parking industry. And yet, top parking ticket provider Toledo Ticket Company has been using the character as its mascot for almost 10 years. The first question that comes to mind — and comes out of the mouths of many who see the character in Toledo Ticket’s booth at industry events — is “Why Gumby?”
So, Why Gumby?
Tom Carter, president and COO for Toledo Ticket, started pondering the idea of a fun character icon that might symbolize his family’s five-generation, 109-year-old company almost 10 years ago. Carter had a background in marketing and advertising before joining the family business and was looking for something that would represent Toledo Ticket to the industries it serves, the largest being the parking industry. “I started by writing down things that represented the parking industry and Toledo Ticket,” said Carter.
The first thing that came to mind was the idea of green technologies. “The parking industry is all about things that reduce carbon emissions and can get cars in and out without lag time,” said Carter. “Green technology is also important in the printing industry through the use of recycled paper and environmentally friendly ink and printing.”
Carter then started thinking about the qualities he felt set Toledo Ticket apart. “We are all about giving the customer what they want and not telling them what they need,” said Carter. “We’re flexible. If a customer says they need something, we will bend over backward to serve.”
Green. Flexible. Naturally, Gumby came to mind. But there was one more element Carter wanted to promote that he also found in Gumby. “Gumby represents the strong morals and ethics that our company has always stood for,” said Carter.
The Spirit of Gumby
“Gumby wants to make the world a better place,” said Joan Rock Clokey, president of Premavision/Clokey Productions/Prema Toy, which oversees all things Gumby. “He’s an everyman hero who looks on the bright side and is always there to help someone in need.”
When looking into obtaining the rights for Gumby, Carter found out that Joe Clokey (son of Gumby creator Art Clokey) and his wife Joan were running the Gumby empire. According to Joan Rock Clokey, Gumby has been licensed for everything from Super Bowl commercials to the Marines (whose “Semper Gumby” program benefits the families of veterans) but they always make sure the products make sense and fit the spirit of Gumby.
Green. Flexible. Naturally, Gumby came to mind
After a trial run, Toledo Ticket and the Clokeys signed a long-term license agreement. Sadly, Joe Clokey died suddenly last year of a heart attack, leaving Joan to oversee the company on her own. “We were crushed when Joe passed away,” said Carter. “They’ve been great to work with and Joan is an incredible lady.”
“Always Green, Always Flexible”
Once the rights were established, the next step was to figure out how to best utilize Gumby. According to Nick Ulrich and Joe Pinciotti of Ulrich Pinciotti Design Group, Toledo Ticket’s marketing and advertising firm, Gumby was placed front and center in marketing materials with the tagline “always green, always flexible” to establish the connection and the direction of the company.
“My goal is that when people see Gumby, they see Toledo Ticket and when they see Toledo Ticket, they see Gumby,” said Carter.
And thus, Gumby (wearing a shirt with the Toledo Ticket logo) began making his way out into the world, starting with appearances at parking-industry conferences and, as the company’s business has expanded, sports-industry events. Toledo Ticket Gumby has been spotted everywhere from the college football championship to the Eiffel Tower, thanks to a promotion that encourages people to take and post shots of Gumby in various places. Another promotion rewards customer loyalty with Gumby cash that can be redeemed for prizes.
Carter started noticing that a number of his clients in the parking industry were collecting the Gumby items — which over the years have ranged from new iterations of the bendable figures to beach towels and even boxer shorts.
“Next thing you know we’ve got crowds coming to us at every trade show asking what the new Gumby item is this year,” said Carter.
“Is That Gumby?”
Carter’s favorite reaction — especially from a business standpoint (and, yes, he reports that sales have “skyrocketed” since they started using him) — is from people who spot Gumby for the first time. “People walk up to our booth and say ‘Wow, is that Gumby?’” said Carter. “And I’ve immediately gotten the attention I’m looking for to tell them about our company.”
Toledo Ticket also lends Gumby out for special events. One example is the “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” horse show, an event Toledo Ticket sponsors that benefits the families of breast-cancer patients. “Sheriff Gumby” — a life-size cutout wearing a cowboy hat, vest and sheriff’s badge — attends both the horse show itself and events that help market the show.
“We travel all summer to horse shows and events promoting our show and cancer awareness and Gumby is my co-pilot,” said Chip Jackson, one of the organizers. “He’s an eye-catcher and brings people over to our set-up and gives us a chance to sell tickets.”
Like Carter, Jackson said that the ability of the Gumby image to attract people is invaluable. “Anytime you are selling something, you’ve got to get them stopped first and that’s what he does,” said Jackson.
Jackson also said he loves watching the fascination young children have with Gumby — and listening to parents explain the character, something that seems to happen wherever Gumby goes.
“Gumby really transcends generations,” said Clokey. “At festivals, we will see three generations of people who are crazy about him: the grandparents who grew up on the original shows in the 1950s, the parents who watched them in the 1980s and the kids who are just discovering him.”
Clokey notes that part of Gumby’s charm is the joy he brings. From his multi-dimensional adventures with Pokey to his ability to morph into any shape and bounce back, the message Gumby imparts is that anything is possible.
“Gumby is a gift to children and the child within us all,” said Clokey.” “When you meet the fans that deep connection really shines through.”
The Gumby-Toledo Ticket connection is something that they intend to continue. “Toledo Ticket is Gumby and Gumby is Toledo Ticket,” said Nick Ulrich.
Ann Shepphird is a technical writer for Parking Today. She can be reached at email@example.com
Toledo Ticket’s Own Gumby Adventure
The collaboration between Toledo Ticket Company and Clokey Productions reached a pinnacle of sorts in 2017 with the creation of a claymation-style film. “Gumby Adventure” highlights Toledo Ticket products by telling the tale of a golden ticket that takes Gumby and Pokey to a concert and a carnival and a basketball tournament and even includes a parking ticket-wielding officer (a Blockhead, for those who remember the series).
The original idea was to produce a short commercial spot to show at trade shows, but the collaboration between Toledo Ticket, Ulrich Pinciotti and Clokey’s production studio (where the crew included artists that have worked on features such as “Nightmare Before Christmas”) ultimately grew into an Addy-award-winning short.
“It was supposed to be a 30-second spot but ended up over two-and-a-half minutes because the creative team had so much fun. Everyone had all these ideas and it snowballed,” said Clokey. “Who knows, we might need to do a follow-up one.”
The film can be seen at: http://www.toledoticket.com/gumby-adventure/