America's Sweetest Treat Mascots
You wake up on a Saturday morning, head to the kitchen, and open up the pantry.
Your eyes aren’t fully adjusted to the morning sunlight, and you haven’t even had your first cup of coffee, but you notice a cheery and energetic friend almost bursting from the shelves — it’s none other than a little green leprechaun mischievously smiling back at you. Who's that next to him? It’s Aunt Jemima, and she's practically begging you to whip up a batch of waffles. And it's all under the watchful eye of the Quaker Oats Man, as it should be, considering he was America's first registered trademark for a breakfast cereal.
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With so many brands and logos flashing in front of your eyes, it can almost be overwhelming.
But all of these icons, from the Trix Rabbit to Lucky the Leprechaun, have been around for more than 50 years. What is it about them that makes them so effective?
"Many companies have opted to use characters because for many markets, it’s easier to get people to attribute those personalities to their brand," explains Mark Ritson, a branding expert and associate professor of marketing at Melbourne Business School.
The amount of time, money and effort that go into creating those characters is what makes them flourish or disappear into obscurity. "Companies literally spend billions of dollars creating that identity of the character," adds Ritson. And over time, it becomes preferable for companies to update the mascots that people associate with certain products.
As Ritson says, it would be "commercial suicide to walk away from such a strong character."
"Take Lucky Charms brand for example," adds Laura Ries, co-founder of the marketing consulting firm Ries & Ries. "They were the first breakfast cereal to include marshmallows, and still have the same mascot from when they were first created."
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Whether it be the tiger from a cereal box or the rabbit on a dessert-like yogurt, these characters are memory triggers. So how about taking a trip down memory lane with some of our favorite characters to find out the stories behind the famous faces?
Did you know the Pillsbury Doughboy likes to rap? Or that the Kool-Aid Man only has three ice cubes in his head? Or that 'Sprite Boy' was actually created for Coca Cola?
Lucky the Leprechaun
Most famous quote: “They're always after me Lucky Charms!"
Also known as: Sir Charms, L.C. Leprechaun
When Lucky was born, he proclaimed, "‘Tis a charmin’ cereal ... simply charmin’!" Lucky Charms was the first cereal to include marshmallows.
In 1975, General Mills attempted to replace Lucky with “Waldo the Wizard.” However, he magically disappeared and Lucky returned within a year.
Arthur Anderson, an American actor, performed Lucky's Irish accented voice for 29 years, beginning in 1963.
In 1954, General Mills debuted Trix breakfast cereal. Disney's Brer Rabbit originally appeared on the boxes.
The original catchphrase for Trix was, “I’m a rabbit and rabbits are supposed to like carrots. But I hate carrots. I like Trix.”
According to a General Mills spokesperson, the Trix Rabbit has eaten the cereal twice — in 1976 and 1980.
Twinkie the Kid
Twinkies were first created in 1930, but "Twinkie the Kid" didn’t make his advertising debut until 1971.
Twinkie the Kid is dressed as a wrangler. He wears a kerchief, boots, gloves, and a cowboy hat.
Sonny the Cuckoo Bird
Most famous quote: “I'm cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs"
Sonny the Cuckoo bird was designed by Gene Cleaves in 1962 but redesigned in 2004. In the earlier years, he could be seen wearing a pink and white-striped shirt.
The Pillsbury Doughboy
Family members: wife Poppie Fresh (The Pillsbury Doughgirl); son Popper; and Baby daughter Bun Bun.
Secret talent: The Pillsbury Doughboy likes to rap.
The Pillsbury Doughboy’s formal name is Poppin’ Fresh.
His first words were “Hi! I’m Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy. Nothing says lovin’ like bakin’ in the oven, and Pillsbury says it best.”
He has been an opera singer, rapper, poet, painter, ballet dancer, and skydiver.
Within three years of the Doughboy’s debut, he had an 87 percent recognition rate.
The first Pillsbury doughboy doll cost $16,000 to create. It had five bodies and 15 heads. Before advanced computer technology, it took 24 shots for every one second of commercial.
Rice Krispies: Snap, Crackle, Pop!
Born: Snap was born in 1933, 80 years-old. Crackle and Pop were born in 1939, 74 years-old.
Illustrator Vernon Grant is the creator of Snap, Crackle and Pop. He drew them after hearing a Rice Krispies jingle on the radio. He then brought the sketches to the N.W. Ayer agency in Philadelphia, who was in charge of the Kellogg’s campaign.
During World War II, they posed patriotically in military clothing, urging consumers to "Save Time, Save Fuel, Save Work."
The trio have different names in different countries. In Sweden, Snap, Crackle and Pop are called "Piff, Paff, Puff." In Germany, they are called “Krisper, Knasper, Knuster.”
Mr. Peanut was created by 14-year-old schoolboy Antonio Gentile when he submitted his sketch of a “peanut man” to win the Planter’s contest for a brand icon. The top hat, monocle and cane were later added.
Mr. Peanut’s original name was Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe.
In 1997, the Mr. Peanut balloon first appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In 2004, Mr. Peanut earned a spot on Madison Avenue’s Advertising Walk of Fame.
"Saturday Night Live" funnyman Bill Hader is the current voice for Mr. Peanut.
Born: 1954, 59 years old
Most famous quote: “Oh yeah!”
Original name: Pitcher Man
The Kool-Aid Man has three ice cubes in his head and measures eight feet tall and five feet wide! He has his own footprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Sprite Boy
Born: Early 1940s
Common misconception: No relation between the Sprite Boy and Sprite soda.
Sprite Boy was originally the Coca-Cola mascot.
He was created to advertise and associate the term “Coke” with Coca-Cola. “Coke” was used for the first time in a magazine ad in 1941.
Sprite Boy was used so frequently in advertising that he wore two different hats: a bottle cap and a soda jerk’s hat. These represented both sides of the brand (Coke in a bottle and Coke from a soda fountain.)