Recently Inc.com published an article titled The Art and Science of Corporate Icons, which discusses Skeeter the squirrel, who is apparently the only squirrel in the world allergic to nuts. Skeeter is also the cartoon mascot for Skeeter Snacks, a line of nut-free cookies created by Dave Leyrer and Pete Najarian, whose target audience is parents with children who have allergies to nuts. The Inc.com article, discussed the creation of Skeeter from the drawing board to the finished product, including what aspects of this critter they wanted to depict their brand. They wanted the product to not only be affordable and appealing to kids but also to show that they were “more playful than other allergen-free brands.”
When speaking of a company’s brand, most people are referring to the company’s name or logo. But for many companies, it is the mascot that makes up the biggest and most memorable aspect of their brand, not only because it is recognizable to that company and it’s product but also because it gives the company an opportunity to showcase more of a personality behind its brand.
Promoting one’s Brand, including names, logos and mascots have become increasingly popular over the years, so much so that there are now board games and game apps dedicated solely to trivia of the recognition and knowledge of popular company brands. Needless to say, reading the article on Skeeter Snacks got us thinking about other iconic mascots that have been used by companies over the years to promote their brands and products. So, based on no scientific research, surveys or opinions other than our own, we compiled the following list of iconic characters that we feel are the best and most memorable, corporate character mascots of all times. And what better time than the start of a new year (okay, we are less than 5 weeks into one anyway) to add a new Best of the Best list into the mix.
***Note — You will notice there are no cereal or fast food related characters on the list. With so many to choose from specifically related to cereals and fast food chains, we decided to follow up with a separate article on cereal mascots in the future. Hopefully these will bring back some happy memories. Jump in and let us know what you think and certainly feel free to point out any that we left out.
Without further ado…
GEICO® ~ (1999-Present)
The Geico Gecko® that is the most prevalent spokesperson for Geico insurance was developed from a creative session at the Martin Agency in Richmond, VA and came about because people thought “Geico” sounded like “Gecko.” The gecko made his debut during the 1999-2000-television season and continues to be their strongest mascot to date.
AFLAC® ~ (1999-Present)
The AFLAC Duck was created in 1999 by the Kaplan Thaler Group Advertising Agency and made his debut in 2000. The concept was born after one of the art directors realized that Aflac sounded like a duck quaking. Voiced by Gilbert Gottfried, this little ducky makes us want to scream AFLAC.
ENERGIZER® BATTERIES ~ (1988-Present)
The icon and mascot of Energizer batteries, the Energizer Bunny was designed by DDB Chicago Advertising and made its first appearance in 1988. This pink toy rabbit wearing sunglasses, blue and white sandals and an energizer logo clad bass drum strapped to his chest never says a word, but continuously beats on his drum. He was originally created as a parody to the TV ads for Duracell, Energizer’s biggest competitor where a set of battery-operated, drum-playing toy rabbits gradually slow to a halt until only the toy powered by Duracell remains active. However, the Energizer Bunny has kept on going and going and going since 1988.
CHEETOS® ~ (1986-Present)
Chester Cheetah® – Voiced by Adam Leadbeater, Chester Cheetah made his debut in 1986 when he took the place of the original Cheetos Mouse. Chester originally became popular with the saying, “It ain’t easy bein’ cheesy.” Chester’s go-to phrase then changed to “The cheese that goes crunch!” Ultimately that gave way in 1996 to “Dangerously cheesy!”
KOOL-AID® ~ (1975-Present)
General Foods hired Marvin Plots, an art director for the New York Agency, to create an image for their flavored Drink Mix in 1954. Inspired by his son, who liked to draw smiley faces on frosted window panes, he created the Pitcher Man, a glass pitcher with a wide smile on it’s side and filled with Kool Aid. Then, in 1975, Pitcher Man evolved into a walking/talking 6-foot-tall pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid and the Kool Aide Man was born. When thirsty kids called upon him with “Hey, Kool-Aid!” the Kool Aid Man, a super-hero of sorts, would burst through walls with his signature chant of “Oh yeah!” and save them from their thirst.
FRUIT OF THE LOOM® ~ (1975-Present)
Fruit of the Loom Guys debuted in 1975 and originally consisted of men wearing an apple a green leaf and green and red grape costumes. This campaign increased brand recognition to 98% and these mascots are still popular and seen on television commercials regularly today.
KEEBLER® ~ (1969-Present)
The Keebler Elves led by “Ernest J. Keebler“, or “Ernie“, rank among the best-known characters from commercials. The elves were created by non other than Leo Burnett in 1969 (Think Charlie Tuna and Pillsbury Dough Boy – Man this guy was good!) and consisted of the elves baking treats with their magic oven inside a hollow tree located in the fictional town of “Sylvan Glen”. Ernie and the elves have been the symbol for Keebler ever since.
9 LIVES® CAT FOOD ~ (1968-Present)
Morris the Cat was an orange Tabby cat voiced by John Irwin. He was known as “the world’s most finicky cat” because he refused to eat anything other than 9 Lives cat food. Three different cats have played the famed “Morris the Cat” thus far. The original Morris, previously named Lucky, was discovered in 1968 at the Hinsdale Humane Society in Chicago Bob Martwick of the Leo Burnett advertising agency came to see “Lucky” just 20 minutes before he was to be euthanized. The first Morris died in 1978 and was subsequently replaced by two more cats since then. All three of the “Morris the Cat” cats were rescued from shelters.
PILLSBURY® ~ (1965-Present)
The Pillsbury Dough Boy was created by Leo Barnett and made his debut in 1965. Pacific Data Images later modernized the mascot into the animated version of the Pillsbury Doug Boy that we see in commercials today. Originally called Poppin’ Fresh, the Pillsbury Doughboy is best known for his catchy giggle when someone pokes his belly. “Nothin’ Says Lovin’ Like Pillsbury in the Oven!”
MRS. BUTTERWORTH’S® (PINNACLE FOODS) ~ (1961-Present)
Mrs. Butterworth’s® who made her debut in 1961, as a non-animated glass bottle shaped to look like a grandmotherly woman in an apron. In the later ad campaign the bottle comes to life and talks about how her syrup is “So thick. So rich and Still Just As Sweet.” Mary Kay Bergman was the main person used to voice Mrs. Butterworth’s until her death in 1999.
TOYS R’ US ~ (1960-Present)
Formally known as Dr. G. Raffe of Children’s Bargaintown in the 1950s, Geoffrey was famous for saying things “Toys ‘R’ Us.” This quote is what paved the way for the company’s future. In 1965, Children’s Bargaintown changed its name to Toys ‘R’ Us and with that Dr. G. Raffe got a makeover to look more life-like and officially named Geoffrey by Toys ‘R’ Us. Geoffrey appeared in his first television commercial in 1973.
As the company grew, so did Geoffrey’s family. In the late 1970’s the company introduced his wife Gigi and their children Junior and Baby Gee. As part of this ad campaign, Toys ‘R’ Us started depicting Geoffrey as a family man, living in a New England light house and driving the Geoffreymobile, which was a double-decker bus fueled by potato chips.
In 1999, Geoffrey’s family bowed out of the spotlights, so he alone could “personify the nature true of Toys ‘R’ Us customers: kids. His new image after that was being a light-hearted kid himself. In 2001 Geoffrey was altered for the 5th time, this time going from a cartoon character to a real live Giraffe. Finally in 2007 he was once again redesigned, only this time he was once again depicted as a cartoon character and his spots were replaced with stars to represent the magic of the Toys ‘R’ Us brand.
STARKIST® TUNA ~ (1958-Present)
Leo Burnett developed the StarKist’s mascot, Charlie Tuna, in 1958. They hired him to create a campaign that would “establish a quality image for StarKist Tuna” that would distinguish them from their main competitor. In 1961, Depatie Freleng Studios began production of an animated version of Charlie the Tuna for a television ad campaign. Charlie Tuna was voiced by actor Herschel Bernardi because they said he provided “just the right combination of Brooklyn street-tough, and Broadway culture to Charlie’s demeanor.”
MR. CLEAN® (PROCTER & GAMBLE) ~ (1957-Present)
Mr. Clean® was created in 1957 and the first Mr. Clean product was placed on supermarket shelves the following year. Originally drawn by Richard Black of Dayton, OH, Mr. Clean was depicted as a tall, muscular, tan, bald man. The jingle, which is the longest running jingle in television history was written and recorded by Thomas Scott Cadden of Skokie, IL. In 1962 Mr. Clean was finally given a first name. His first name became “Veritably” as the result of P&G’s “Give Mr. Clean a First Name” Promotion. So he is Mr. Veritably Clean.
M&M Candies ~ (1954-Present)
M&M Candies were introduced in 1941 as a staple for American GI’s serving in WWII. In 1954 the tagline “Mets In Your Mouth, Not In Your Hands” was born and with that the original M&Ms Characters made their television debut. In the beginning M&M’s were brown, but in 1960 Yellow, Red and Green were added to the mix. In 1976 Orange was added, and in 1995, over 10 million people voted to add blue to the color mix as well. The mascots evolved in the late 90’s into the 6 different characters we all know and love today. Each has his/her own recognizable characteristics and distinct personalities.
- Ms. Brown (Female) – A corporate executive, the Original Milk Chocolate, holds the title of Chief Chocolate Officer. She is an intelligent woman with a sharp wit, who finally decided to reveal herself in 2012 after being behind the scenes since 1941.
- Red (Male) – He is the unofficial “leader” of the pack. He is quite a character, witty, sarcastic and quite the jokester. Red is shorter than the other M&Ms (except for Crispy) and has somewhat of a Napoleon Complex because of it. A self-proclaimed ladies man, Red is always trying to impress Green.
- Yellow (Male) – Yellow, the official Spokescandy for peanut M&Ms, is Red’s sidekick. He is quite the follower and will do basically anything Red wants him to do. He’s a bit “slower” than the other M&Ms. He reminds me a bit of Patrick Star Fish from SpongeBob Square Pants.
- Green (Female) – Made her debut in 1997. With perky lips, high heels or knee-high boots and a super, sultry voice, she is what one would call “a sex symbol” in the candy world. Most of the commercials where she is the star ends in Blue, Red and Yellow left speechless, staring at her with their mouths dropped practically to the floor..
- Orange (Male) – Also known as Crispy, he is obsessed with his own crispiness and paranoid that he will be eaten at any moment. His motto of sorts is “I’m a dead man.” In 2010, Orange became the Official Spokescandy for Pretzel M&Ms
- Blue (Male) – He is the Cool Guy of the group. He’s always talking with his agent to try and negotiate a better deal. His motto is “Never Let ‘Em See You Melt!”
GREEN GIANT VEGETABLES ~ (1928-Present)
The Jolly Green Giant® was created in 1925 for the Minnesota Valley Canning Company and named after a variety of particularly large peas He did not make his first appearance in advertising until 1928. The Giant, with his signature “Ho, Ho, Ho!” became so widely popular and recognized as the company brand that the company was renamed The Green Giant Company in 1950.
PLANTERS® PEANUTS ~ (1916-Present) 97 Years and Counting
Mr. Peanut came to life in 1916 when Planter’s Peanuts held a contest and offered a prize to anyone who could create a suitable trademark for Planters. The winner of the contest happened to be a 14-year old boy who submitted his drawing of a peanut with arms, legs and a face. Mr. Peanut later evolved over time to include a top hat, monocle and cane.
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