I didn’t realize my words would be greeted with gasps and sounds of horror.
Telling a room full of people that Betty Crocker was not a real person might have been the wrong idea. Even as marketers, it’s clear we all liked the personality who, at least we thought, has helped us make delicious recipes for years.
Yes, that’s right, Betty isn’t real. I recently found out the news myself. I remember like it was yesterday. I read the damning passage in a book about the food industry I’m currently devouring (get it?). Shutting the book to take a moment and collect myself, I was stunned. Betty never existed.
This got me thinking… How many other brands have personalities, real or fake, whom we can’t get enough of? And what’s their story? (Animals and living objects don’t count, including Tony the Tiger or the weird Cheetos cat, or even the lovable Kool-Aid man.)
1. Mr. Clean
He may have had a few makeovers throughout the years, but his name and purpose have remained the same. Mr. Clean was born in the 1960s, and after a brief stint as a “mean” Mr. Clean angry at dirt, he has had a knowing smile on his face ever since. The artist who designed Mr. Clean recently passed away at his home near Dayton.
2. Gerber Baby
We all know this image, considering many of us grew up eating Gerber baby food. Surprise, it’s a sketch of a real baby, and she is now a retired teacher and current mystery writer. The artist, Dorothy Hope Smith, passed away in the 1950s, but her work lives on.
3. Chef Boyardee
I love this one: He was a real person… and a Clevelander! Hector Boiardi, turned into “Boy-ar-dee” for an American audience, for a time operated a restaurant in Cleveland called Il Giardino d’Italia. He died in 1985 and was buried in Chardon. The ubiquitous chef’s last name was removed of its hyphens as a final alteration.
4. Colonel Sanders
This will likely come as less of a surprise, but Colonel Sanders from KFC was a real person. He kept a very high profile, but his legacy continues as KFC’s logo and is clearly fondly remembered.
5. Aunt Jemima
This brand character is steeped in history and has inspired much debate. Some claim the personality perpetuates stereotypes, while Quaker Oats is adamant she represents comfort and heritage. I encourage you to read these articles from Fortune and NPR to learn more.
So, did any of these shock you? Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments.
Ryan Collins is Social Media Specialist at AKHIA