They're a bunch of real characters! Come bask in the nostalgia with your favorite mascots as we look back at some of advertising's best-loved icons.
Selling a brand has always been hard work, requiring a certain level of skill and finesse. These mascots, however, have made it look really easy and have gone down in history as some of the most recognizable icons of all time.
Whether in print, on screen or out in the great, big world, each has taken on a life of its own, serving its brand and company well. Many of the favorites are meant to appeal to children and are related to breakfast cereals. We can probably guess which ones immediately "pop" into your head. Why not hop into the quiz and see if we're right!
Many popular mascots are based on cute cartoon animal characters but there are some famous real-people in the batch. Furthermore, not all of the best mascots were funny or cuddly characters - think big and "Green" or perhaps muscular and "Clean," and you'll see what we mean!
Baby Boomers should definitely get all of these correct but, hey, Gen Xers, Millennials and Centennials you might just be pleasantly surprised at how many of them you know, too! See how well you score - take the quiz!
Disney’s Mickey Mouse is a trailblazer in many ways. He appeared in one of the very first cartoons made with synchronized sound – "Steamboat Willie" (1928), which was Mickey’s debut film. Fifty years later (1978), Mickey became the first cartoon character to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The Miss Chiquita character was created by Dik Browne, the cartoonist who created and drew the Hägar the Horrible comic strip. She was introduced as the mascot for Chiquita Brands in 1944 as an animated banana dressed like a woman. It wasn’t until 1984 that she was drawn as an actual woman.
The Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food chain was founded in 1930 by “Colonel” Harland Sanders. It began as a roadside restaurant and became a franchise in 1952. Sanders fully embraced the “Colonel Sanders” character and continued to appear in full costume, representing KFC, even after he sold the company. He was buried in his trademark costume when he died at age 90.
Mr. Clean is described by the company as “a man of few words but many muscles.” He was created in 1957 and although the character was modeled after a sailor, he is frequently mistaken for a genie (due to his bald head, folded arms, and earring). The company has also created Mr. Clean’s background story which reveals that he was found as the “cutest, cleanest” baby by a farmer and his wife.
Captain Horatio Magellan Crunch was created in 1963, the same year the Cap’n Crunch cereal was first introduced. He has never been drawn with the full four stripes of a real-life naval captain but with one to three stripes, instead. Cap’n Crunch does deserve the title, however, as he is the captain of the S.S. Guppy and her crew as they go sailing on the Sea of Milk!
“Please don't squeeze the Charmin!” was the catchphrase used by supermarket manager Mr. Whipple in the early Charmin bathroom tissue commercials. Mr. Whipple, however, loves squeezing the Charmin and later begins persuading others to go ahead and squeeze it so they can see for themselves just how soft it is.
Monopoly has used Rich Uncle Pennybags as its mascot since the 1930s but did not give the character a name until 1946. Original versions of the game included $15,140 worth of play money which was upgraded to $20,580 in 2008. To celebrate its 80th anniversary, 80 Monopoly games sold in France contained $20,580 in real money!
The Chef Boyardee mascot is styled after the brand’s founder, Italian-American Chef Ettore Boiardi (also known as Hector Boyardee). Boiardi began training as a chef in Italy and after moving to the U.S., he went on to become head chef at New York’s Plaza Hotel. He opened his first restaurant in 1926 and began manufacturing his famous spaghetti sauce in 1928.
Elsie the Cow was introduced as a mascot in 1936 and was first represented by a live cow in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair. Elsie’s mate is Elmer (the Elmer’s Glue mascot) and they have four children (calves): Beulah, Beauregard, and twins Larabee and Lobelia.
The Morton Salt Girl and the accompanying slogan, “When It Rains It Pours,” were first used by the company in 1914. Both highlight the fact that Morton’s salt does not suffer from caking in damp conditions. In fact, the company is said to have produced the first free-flowing salt in 1911 when it began adding an anti-caking agent to its product.
In 1916, 10 years after it was founded, Planters Peanut Company decided to host a contest for designs of its new company mascot. The winner was a young boy named Antonio Gentile, whose sketch was later “polished” up by a commercial artist, who added the cane, top hat and monocle to Gentile’s original character.
The Chicken of the Sea mermaid was first introduced in 1952. Her design is said to be inspired by the actress who played Yeoman Janice Rand on the first "Star Trek" television series. The mermaid was nameless until 2014 when she was given the name Catalina following a nationwide contest in which the company received roughly 50,000 suggestions for what her name should be.
Post Consumer Brands introduced the Cocoa Pebbles and Fruity Pebbles cereals in 1970 as a reinvention of its Sugar Rice Krinkles cereal. The cereal is named after the daughter of Fred and Wilma Flintstone, created by Hanna-Barbera. The company touts Pebbles cereal as “the first brand ever created around a media character.”
Mr. Julius Pringles is the full name of the iconic Pringles potato chips mascot. Some fans may recall that when he was first introduced in 1968, Mr. Pringles was drawn with eyebrows.
The Keebler Company was founded in 1853 and its highly recognizable mascots were created more than 100 years later, in 1969. According to their story, the Keebler elves, led by Ernie Keebler, bake their Keebler treats in a magic oven inside the Hollow Tree (or Fac-Tree) located in Sylvan Glen.
The original Sun-Maid Girl is actually Lorraine Collett Petersen who in 1915, worked handing out promotional packets of raisins for the company. Wearing her mother’s red sunbonnet, she posed for a painting which became the iconic Sun-Maid mascot. That painting and the sunbonnet (now faded to pink) were kept by Lorraine Collett until 1974 when she donated them to the company.
“The Valley of the Jolly Green Giant” is located close to the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota. In 1978, the townspeople got permission to erect a 55-foot, 4-ton, fiberglass statue of the smiling giant that has become a booming tourist attraction.
Illustrator Joe Harris created the Trix rabbit and the accompanying line, “Silly rabbit! Trix are for kids.” The rabbit first appeared in commercials for the cereal in 1959 but has only ever tasted the Trix on two occasions, both thanks to box top voting campaigns launched by the company in 1976 and 1980.
Honey Nut Cheerios and BuzzBee the mascot, were introduced in 1979. BuzzBee was named by a 5th-grader following a nationwide contest and is sometimes referred to simply as Buzz. In 2017, to make a statement about the world’s declining bee population, the company pulled BuzzBee from the Honey Nut Cheerios box design and began giving away millions of Cosmos Sensation Mix Seeds packets inside boxes of the cereal.
Mr. Owl, along with a cow, a fox and a turtle first appeared in a 1969 TV commercial featuring the now famous question, “How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?” According to the company, it has received more than 20,000 letters from children worldwide with answers ranging from “a low of 100 licks to a high of 5,800 licks” with the average being between 600 and 800. It sent a Clean Stick Award certificate to each child!
Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup has been around since 1961 and although, according to the company, the well-known mascot always had a first name, it wasn’t revealed until 2009. A hint of her name can be found in her mission statement: “To spread joy with my tasty syrup!” (In case you haven’t guessed it – it’s Joy!)
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes has used Tony the Tiger as its mascot ever since it was first marketed in 1952. His “They're Gr-r-reat!” slogan is as much a part of his character as the stylish red bandana he always wears around his neck.
Morris the cat has been the mascot for 9Lives cat food since 1968 when the original model cat was rescued from an animal shelter. Apart from being a famous mascot, Morris is also a movie star. He appeared as Cat in the 1973 film, "Shamus," alongside Burt Reynolds.
Bibendum, the Michelin Man, was first conceived by the company’s founders, brothers Édouard and André Michelin. He has been in existence since 1898 and his appearance has been adjusted several times so that he reflects changes in the appearance of tires over the years.
Ty-D-Bol in-tank toilet bowl cleaners have been around since 1957. Along with the iconic Ty-D-Bol Man, they are famously known as the first cleaners to turn toilet water blue.
The Quaker Oats man became an official trademark for the company in 1877. According to the company, he is the very first breakfast cereal trademark in the U.S. While the Quaker Oats Company does not claim any ties to the Quaker religious group, it does state that the image and name were chosen as they represent “good quality and honest value.”
Sailor Jack, the Cracker Jack mascot, is modeled after the 8-year-old grandson of one of the company’s founders. Sailor Jack’s faithful dog is named Bingo and he was drawn based on a stray dog adopted by one of the company’s partners.
Although Kool-Aid Man was technically created in 1975, he is actually an upgrade of the company’s previous mascot, Pitcher Man, created in 1954. Since his arrival, Kool-Aid Man has been the star of a Marvel Comic Book and an Atari video game. He is also very well known for his tendency to behave like a wrecking ball!
The original Gerber Baby was selected in 1928 from an artist’s drawing of a 4-month-old baby. The artist, Dorothy Hope Smith, received $300 as prize money and the baby, Ann Turner Cook, has been the face of Gerber baby products ever since. She went on to become a teacher and taught for 26 years before retiring.
Kellogg’s Rice Krispies were introduced in 1928 and the now famous “Snap! Crackle! Pop!” tagline was first used by the company in 1929. The characters Snap, Crackle and Pop were created in 1933 and while all three were featured in advertising material, only Snap was shown on the cereal box. It wasn’t until 1941 that Crackle and Pop were added and the trio of elves have been together ever since!
The role of Ronald McDonald has been played by many actors but the very first Ronald has a familiar face – even without the makeup. Willard Scott, who later became the well-known NBC-TV Today Show weatherman, was the first person inside the Ronald McDonald costume when the character debuted in the 1960s.
When Sonny the Cuckoo Bird debuted for Cocoa Puffs in the 1960s, he wasn’t alone. There was also his grandfather, Gramps, pairing up in the commercials with him as he went “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs!” The Gramps character was removed from advertising in the early 1970s but was given a comeback in several commercials in 2010.
Leon and Jules Bel founded The Laughing Cow company in France in 1921, at the same time creating its easily recognizable mascot. Known as “La Vache Qui Rit” in French, The Laughing Cow always has a cheerful expression and wears a pair of earrings that are actually Laughing Cow Cheese packets.
This magical mascot goes by several names: Lucky; Lucky the Leprechaun; Sir Charms; and L.C. Leprechaun. He was created in 1963 and has been the cereal’s mascot ever since, except for a short while in 1975 when the company tested a new mascot, the absent-minded Waldo the Wizard. The company now refers to Waldo as “The forgotten Lucky Charms mascot.”
Most people know him as the Pillsbury Doughboy but his real name is, in fact, Poppin’ Fresh and he has a companion named Poppie Fresh. Along with Poppin’s son, Poppe, and his daughter, Bun-Bun, there are also Uncle Rollie and grandparents called, Granmommer and Granpopper. “Rounding” out the family are Flapjack, a dog and Biscuit, a cat.
From 1916 to date, there have been seven lions featured as the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) mascot. The first was Slats (1916–1928) who was born at the Dublin Zoo and is the only MGM lion not shown roaring. He was followed by Jackie, Telly, Coffee, Tanner, and George. The current lion, Leo, has been used as the mascot since 1957.
Speedy Alka-Seltzer was created in 1951 when Alka-Seltzer went looking for a mascot. The character was initially named Sparky but the name was changed so that it was in keeping with the company’s “Speedy Relief” tagline. Despite being shelved in the late 1960s to early 1970s, Speedy has gone on to become one of the most recognizable mascots today.
Geoffrey the giraffe is one of those mascots who keep evolving with time. He was originally Dr. G. Raffe and after he became Geoffrey, his story was re-written to include a wife and two children, living in a lighthouse and driving around in the Geofferymobile. Years later, he was reinvented as a “light-hearted kid” and went through several design changes, including having his spots changed to stars.
Nesquik first came on the market in 1948 and three decades later, began using Quicky, the Nesquik Bunny, as its mascot. Although he was originally associated with the chocolate-flavored Nesquik, Quicky now represents the company’s entire line.
The Campbell Soup Company was founded in 1869 and began producing its ready-to-eat tomato soup in 1895. In 1904, the company began using the Campbell’s Soup kids as its advertising mascots with them making their first appearance as streetcar advertisements.