August 12, 2020
Creating a brand mascot to connect consumers with a company’s product and services has been a tried-and-true tradition in the United States since the Quaker Oats mascot debuted in 1877. Since then, hundreds of consumer products companies have created perhaps thousands of characters – some loveable and iconic, others hitting their mark and fading away (remember the singing California Raisins?) and still more failing spectacularly (we’re looking at you, Mucinex's Mr. Mucus).
With an understanding that there are hundreds of mascots in play by companies in virtually every industry that directly engages consumers, we take a look at a select group of the timeless characters that remain near-and-dear to consumers while helping drive sales worldwide.
Aflac Incorporated (Tii:AFL) – The Aflac Duck
For about 20 years, a world-famous duck has been extolling the benefits of supplemental insurance with a one-word vocabulary – typically quacked frustratedly to unsuspecting policyholders. A true success story in the branding and commercial spaces, Aflac Duck has starred in more than 75 television commercials and was a contributing factor in transforming Aflac from a little-known supplemental insurance company to a household name internationally. According to the company, the international popularity of the Aflac Duck was to such a degree that more than 9 out of 10 people know of the Aflac brand in Japan.
Compagnie Generale des Etablissements Michelin Societe en commandite par actions (Tii:ML.PA) - The Michelin Man
While most Americans may not be familiar with the French multinational tire manufacturer with the exceedingly long name, you can bet they know the Michelin Man. Introduced at Lyon Exhibition in France in 1894 as Bibendum, the Michelin Man has found his way into American pop culture to such a extent that it inspired the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man’s design in the 1984’s Ghostbusters film.
Diageo plc (Tii:DEO) - Captain Morgan
Standing majestically with one leg resting atop a rum barrel, the gaudily-clad swashbuckler Captain Morgan remains perhaps the most recognizable image in the spirits industry. Named after the 17th-century Welsh privateer of the Caribbean, Sir Henry Morgan, the memorable pirate has been encouraging adults of legal drinking age to “live like a captain” for more than 70 years.
General Mills, Inc. (Tii:GIS) - Trix Rabbit, Lucky the Leprechaun, Pillsbury Doughboy
As a manufacturer and marketer of consumer foods with nearly 90 brands – many of which have huge kid appeal – it’s no surprise that General Mills has several iconic mascots. The most adored of these include Lucky the Leprechaun and the Trix Rabbit (who can forget the taunts of, "Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids!"). The most prolific of these characters is the Pillsbury Doughboy, which is actually named Poppin’ Fresh. This timeless character has enjoyed a longstanding appeal to both children and adults for more than 50 years. The Doughboy has starred in more than 600 ads for 50 products. If there is any doubt that a company mascot can cross over into mainstream pop culture, consider that Poppin’ Fresh made his debut as a balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2009.
Kraft Heinz Company (Tii:KHC) - Mr. Peanut
With dozens of consumer brands under its umbrella, Mr. Peanut is the American food giant’s most recognizable mascot and one of the most iconic characters in the history of advertising. Created by a grade-schooler in 1916, the top hat and monocle-sporting Mr. Peanut, originally named Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe, helped shill peanuts for Kraft’s Planters division for over a century until being infamously killed off in a Super Bowl LIV commercial featuring actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh.
The Procter & Gamble Company (Tii:PG) - Mr. Clean
Making his television debut in 1958, the bald pate, muscular, earring-sporting Mr. Clean was a significant factor in his namesake household cleanser, becoming the best-selling product in its space within its first year. The character is so popular that 70-odd years later, parent company Procter & Gamble maintains a web page with a video depicting his entire fictional backstory.
The Walt Disney Company (Tii:DIS) - Mickey Mouse
Though this listing is by no means comprehensive, we would still be remiss to not include Mickey Mouse in this group of memorable mascots. Created in 1928, the instantly recognizable mouse has had hundreds of appearances on television, films, video games and is closely-associated with virtually every property (and there are many) under the Disney umbrella. This mascot’s ubiquity and kid appeal for nearly a century cannot be overstated.