5 Iconic Brand Mascot Transformations

Mascots can be traced back decades in the marketplace of goods, services, entertainment, and ideas.

They were first introduced in sporting events to entertain and excite the spectators. For the most part, mascots were fictional characters in different types of outfits. Later, animals were introduced to intensify the rivalry and competitive spirit between different sports teams. Soon, puppetry and human figurine mascots were brought into businesses. As businesses and sports teams folded, so did the mascots.

Indeed, several mascots have survived and undergone a graceful transformation. Today, these mascots are well recognized and represent the same brand they did many decades ago.

We have compiled a list of the five major brand mascots of the past era that have transformed in recent years.

1. Jolly Green Giant

Jolly Green Giant was a mascot introduced nearly a century ago by the food company Minnesota Valley Canning Company of Le Sueur, Minnesota. The character was designed for its Green Giant brand of products, which are now owned by General Mills

The company had introduced Green Giant Great Big Tender Peas several years earlier, and the mascot soon followed. When first introduced, the mascot went by the name Green Giant. It is important to note that Jolly Green was neither green nor jolly when first created. The mascot was originally white when he first appeared in ads for peas. The word Jolly was only added later on by the Burnette agency.

By the 1950s, the Minnesota company also changed its name to Green Giant. It is claimed that the idea to develop the Green Giant mascot was derived from illustrations in the German Grimm’s Fairy tales of the 1800s. The Green Giant took a short hiatus from advertisements in the 1920s. Thirty years later, the advertising company Leo Burnett softened the mascot’s image, and he became the Gentle Giant we know today.

The transformed giant has a pleasant smile, wears a toga of green leaves, and sure makes the concept of eating your greens a little more enticing to the picky eaters at our dinner table!

2. Kool-Aid Man

The Kool-Aid Man is the six-foot-tall mascot for the beverage Kool-Aid. Always smiling, he is often seen rescuing thirsty girls and boys, reciting his iconic phrase, “Oh-yeah.”

The Kool-Aid Man mascot was created with stick figures in 1974 after his lesser-known successor, Pitcher Man, in 1954. When the first commercials were aired, the ad format was simple: children would yell, “Hey, Kool-Aid,” followed by the Kool-Aid Man bursting through barriers and shouting, “Oh, Yeah”, with pitchers of Kool-Aid in hand.

By the ‘60s and ‘70s, the Kool-Aid Man mascot was a household name, and once the 80s rolled around, he attained a status reserved for pop stars and musicians. In 1994, the live-action Kool-Aid man was replaced by a computer-generated image. This remained the case for the next 15 years, until 2009 when the live-action Kool-Aid Man returned to its original status with a permanent smile and sleek glass arms and legs filled with Kool-Aids’ most popular cherry flavour beverage. Kool-Aid Man remains an integral part of the product’s marketing initiatives, and he maintains an active presence on social media channels.

3. Michelin Man

What is probably the longest surviving mascot in this history of brand mascots is Michelin man.

Created in 1898, this tubby white mascot’s name was Bibendum – Bib for short. Bib was inspired by a heap of tires at the Lyon Universal Exhibition in 1984. Founder Edouard Michelin then added arms to the tires, and the Michelin man was born.

However, back then, Michelin man appeared nothing like it does today. When first created, he looked like an eerie mummy and was depicted in ads with a glass container in his hand that was filled with broken glass and nails to show how durable and tough Michelin tires were. With time, the Michelin man underwent gradual transformations that included a kickboxer, gladiator, ballroom dancer, and a Casanova.

In 1920, a slimmer, trimmer, and people-friendly mascot was created that did not smoke or drink and was active in sports. Today, the iconic tire-welding Michelin man always appears jolly with a friendly smile on his face, ready to lend a helping hand, or tire.

4. Mr. Clean

The mascot Mr. Clean was created in 1957 by Harry Barnhart and Ernie Allen in the art department of an advertising agency in Chicago.

The free hand-drawn mascot depicted Mr. Clean as a bald, muscular male who was known for his immaculate cleaning abilities. According to Proctor & Gamble, the idea of developing Mr. Clean was derived from a Navy sailor residing in Pensacola, Florida. It is unclear if this suggestion is accurate, as others have contended that he is based on the concept of a genie because of his earring, muscular folded arms, and ability to clean even the toughest stains with a cheeky wink of an eye.

That said, the early Mr. Clean mascot reflected a stern male with little emotions. Later, Hal Mason, an animator in Hollywood studios, modified the artwork and produced a Mr. Clean that was better suited for TV commercials, with a more approachable demeanor. Since then, Mr. Clean has always had a smile on his face, with a golden earring, bright eyes, and sporting the same clean white T-shirt. A mascot with a knack for cleaning – what more could you ask for?!

5. Mr. Pringles

Mr. Pringles is a mascot for the American food manufacturer of the potato chips brand Pringles. It was developed by Procter & Gamble in 1967 – the brand was sold to Kellogg in 2012. However, the mascot has, by and large, remained the same except for some minor aesthetic changes.

The original mascot was a graceful cartoon depiction of the face of a male, whose official name is Julius Pringles, or Mr. P. The mascot was designed by Louis Dixon, showing a male with parted bangs and a thick mustache. However, in 1998, the mascot was redesigned, eyebrows were added, and the bow tie was etched with the product name Pringles.

Despite minor aesthetic changes over the years, Mr. Pringles has remained essentially the same for more than four decades.

Today, the Pringles brand is sold in more than 150 countries, and people worldwide instantly recognise the charming mustachioed mascot.

Mascots can always give brands an advantage over other companies. From standing out from a crowded marketplace to showcasing a brand’s values, mascots serve a purpose in the free-enterprise system. The common thread between brands who have developed a mascot that has stood the test of time? An investment of time and resources into professional character and mascot design, evolving elements of their mascot to align with the changing brand and shifting consumer preferences. Keen to learn more about creating a mascot that wows? Reach out to Toronto’s trusted mascot experts at Hogtown Mascots.