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All-time Best Corporate Character Mascots

Written by Renee C. Quinn
B.S. Pennsylvania State University
M.B.A. University of Phoenix
Posted: February 11, 2013 @ 8:30 am
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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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About the Author

Renee C. Quinn acquired a Masters of Business Administration with her course work focusing on e-Commerce and e-Business, with an emphasis on marketing via the World Wide Web. Her particular career focus to date has been on business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketing. She writes on various business and social media topics for IPWatchdog.com. You can follow Renee on Twitter at IPWatchdog_Too. Renee is available to consult with individuals and businesses on how to set up and effectively use social media and social networking tools to establish a successful marketing campaign. You can contact Renee via e-mail.

10 comments
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  1. People do not buy products because of mascots, logos and trademarks. This is a dumb delusional article.

  2. Deanna,

    No where in the article do I specifically say that people buy products because of mascots, logos and trademarks. However, that absolutely is the case and your statement is 100% false. Mascots, logos and trademarks make up a company brand. People buy things they like and the brand of an item makes it memorable and likable. In the case of M&M’s, people spend billions of dollars on M&Ms character products. Clothing such as T-shirts and pajama’s, cups, coffee mugs and candy dispensers are some of the hottest sellers. In 2012, M&M’s had $3.49 billion in global sales, a large portion of which was on M&Ms Character products and not just the candy itself.

    Think about non-food related characters such as Batman, Superman and Barbie. Those three names alone are all recognizable trademarks, logos and mascots for their individual brands. How many Batman, Superman and Barbie items are sold each year that are not the three characters themselves? Again, clothing, toys (other than the dolls) mugs, cards, pez dispensers, etc. The dollar amounts are staggering. They are sold 100% because of their brand. So yes, people DO buy products because of a mascot, logo or trademark.

    I feel really bad for you that you would characterize something that is fun as dumb and delusional. I am not one for name calling, but if you truly believe that people do not purchase items because of their brands, then one could say that you were being dumb and delusional yourself.

    Nevertheless, thank you for reading IPWatchdog.com. We appreciate all of those who read us.

    -Renee

  3. Renee’-

    One I always got a kick out of were the California Grapes television ads, where a clay-mation animated singing group of Raisins performed a very good version of Ray Charles’ famous song “I heard it through it through the Grapevine” (C)

    They came off as being pretty slick and professional with their choreographed dance routines, reminding folks in a humorous way about the availability of excellent grapes from California as used for yummy raisins and fine wines.

    In every tote full of grapes or barrel of apples though, there will always be a few that have gone bad, that need to be identified and dealt with. Just a fact of life I guess.

    Cheers!
    Stan~

  4. Hey, what about me? The Pink Panther has sold more insulation than anyone – and without talking! ;-)

  5. Stan,

    Yes, the California Raisins were on my list, but the list got so long. I remember those as well and thought they were fun! I must ad that I LOVE your metaphor at the end of your comment. Thank you, as always, for your support. We love having you be a part of the IPWatchdog Family!

    BTW have you “Liked” our FB page yet? http://www.facebook.com/IPWatchdog

    Sorry, can’t help it, that’s what I get paid the big bucks for! LOL

    -Renee

  6. I know I have not posted in awhile, but seriously, how can the Kool-aid man not be the top of the list here?

  7. BD-

    My favorite purveyor of Kool-aid is definitely on top!

    Thanks for reading!

    -Gene

  8. Deanna, Deanna, Deanna-

    Wow. A fun, light-hearted article about intellectual property and branding leads you to insult the author? Do you feel better about yourself in a “I’m superior” kind of way now? Well you shouldn’t because your comment shows just how little you know about the topic, which is amazing given how we as a culture are inundated with brands and branding campaigns.

    You say: “People do not buy products because of mascots, logos and trademarks.” Talk about naive and uninformed. What planet are you from?

    Are you at all familiar with Coca-Cola? Are you aware that the estimated brand value for Coca Cola in 2011 was $71.9 billion. See:

    http://www.coca-colacompany.com/annual-review/2011/company-highlights.html

    And you don’t think trademarks matter? It would seem we could fill volumes with what you don’t know on the topic. Perhaps try and inform yourself in the future before commenting on a topic you know nothing about.

    -Gene

  9. Panther,

    I’m sorry for leaving you out! I could certainly have mentioned you with Batman and Superman, as you are a Super-Hero of sorts! = )

    Perhaps I should do another article on some of the all time highest toy line brands, or movie brands. So many fun things I could do!

    -Renee

  10. Blind,

    Thanks for the comment, I purposely did not put the list in any type of favorites order. I put them in order of age! Kool-Aid man as he is currently is only the 5th oldest on the list being around since 1975. Which technically is a bit unfair because the concept that led to him was originally thought up in 1954. I cannot remember the last time I saw a KoolAid Man commercial. But it was ALWAYS a blast watching him punch through brick walls. Which reminds me, did you see this weeks King of the Nerds? Genevieve got to smash through “stick, cement and brick” walls for each question she got right. OOOOH, So THAT’S how he did it! LOL Such fun!

    -Renee

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