My 2 cents.
I think these proposed ideas are probably things that MDD is specifically looking to avoid.
1. I think any "eye-grabbing" graphics-driven changes to the MDD site would be a negative. If I were running a company like MDD - which offers services that are superior to the competition - then I would go for "mind-grabbing" instead of "eye-grabbing". This means text instead of images, like Mike said. As an intelligent adult, I am looking for a host's web site to give me the information I need to make an intelligent decision. Pictures are for kids, text is for adults.
If that's the case, then he could simply strip every last image off of his website, and go with a text-only approach. Pictures are not just for kids. Adults are human beings, and respond to visual stimuli as much as, if not more than, kids do.
2. My opinion about mascot-driven branding is that it is an insult to people's intelligence. The use of animal mascots (and mascots in general) is a classic branding technique used to promote commoditized and dumb-down products and services that appeal to the masses. Some examples in different industries:
Hosting - HostGator, SharkHost
Restaurants - McDonalds, Burger King
Investing - Minyanville
A classic branding technique, huh? Maybe there's a reason that it is a classic branding technique. You could also add to your list all sports team mascots, or even mascots of military organizations. The product to which a mascot is "applied" does not have to be a dumbed-down product or service. Furthermore, if you are trying to sell something to the public, then appeal to the masses is not an inherently bad thing.
The mascots for HostGator and SharkSpace are certainly not bad mascots. Of the two of them, I favor the HostGator more. I also think that the hawk mascot works very well for HawkHost. I like it more than the HostGator gator or the SharkSpace shark, in fact. What dumbed-down product or service are the folks at HawkHost selling, anyway?
3. With regard to MDD branding, I think that a viable branding campaign that could differentiate MDD would be for Mike to be the face of the company and to have his face and name on the banners since he has been a large contributor to the good customer service MDD clients have received. Hosting companies need to offer this kind of personalized experience, since hosting companies are dealing with very valuable customer assets. Hosting is a relationship-driven business yet it has never been treated that way.
He could use his own face or image, certainly. He would, in effect, become his own company mascot. Instead of a GoDaddy Girl, MDDHosting could have Mike, the MDD Guy. Maytag had the Maytag Guy, after all. You can label it whatever you want to, but it still serves the same function as a mascot. Colonel Harlan Sanders' image adorns Kentucky Fried Chicken signs.
As far as a relationship driven business is concerned, using himself as his own company's mascot or quasi-mascot will not be a determining factor in whether MDDHosting is a relationship-driven business, though.