By Rod Budget
What makes some mascots iconic American heroes while others flounder and embarrass themselves via an onslaught of bad puns, poor costuming, and general confusion?
At Hungry Dads, we take these rankings seriously, and implement rigorous mathematical and scientific approaches to our research, thus making the findings irrefutable. Here is our approach and methodology to the Food Mascot Rankings (FMRs):
- First of all, to garner consideration, the mascots MUST STILL BE IN USE to some degree (even if it’s just on the packaging.) Sorry, Sir-Shake-A-Lot.
- The mascots can not be real people (e.g. The Most Interesting Man in the World).
- Five categories were judged on a scale of 1-10, with a score of 1 being awful and 10 being outstanding. Each category is worth 20% of the total score:
- Physical appearance
- Good Brand Ambassador?
- Would I Want to Have a Beer with You?
- The scores were then averaged into an overall FMR score, with a higher score being better
The 5 Worst Food Mascots of All Time
5th worst. Mr. Peanut (4.0 FMR) The gentlemanly peanut scores points for longevity, but he scores low marks in all other categories. The cold hard fact is that it’s impossible for any mascot to pull off a monocled top hat look in this day and age. Further points are deducted in the Brand Ambassador category based on the fact that Mr. Peanut is promoting the consumption of himself. It’s cannibalism when you think about it, and it’s tough to support any food mascots that promote self consumption.
4th worst. The Helping Hand (3.4 FMR) I understand the premise. Hamburger Helper is easy to make, and it’s “helping” not only hamburger become a more delicious meal, but also all of us suckers who are too busy to make anything for dinner that requires time, energy, or talent. But isn’t it a tad too literal to make the mascot an actual hand? Or glove? Or whatever that creepy clown looking thing is? Furthermore, his voice is overly clownish and can’t carry the “Hamburger Helper jingle.” Judge for yourself:
3rd worst. Dig ’em Frog (3.2 FMR) While Dig ’em doesn’t completely bomb in any one category, he achieves consistent low marks across the board. What could be more appealing than a bullfrog to promote the sugary sweetness of a breakfast cereal? The impossibly upturned bill of his baseball cap defies several laws of physics, and it’s not doing him any favors in the coolness department. Oh, and he’s wearing his name on his shirt… and his one “trick” is slapping hands and giving hi-fives to kids. Real cool. Well, given that he’s a frog trying to sell cereal to kids, I’m sure he’ll at least have a cute and quirky non-bullfrog voice:
2nd worst. Wendell, The Cinnamon Toast Crunch Maker (2.8 FMR) You know it’s bad when you need to include “The Cinnamon Toast Crunch Maker” as part of your title. At least Mr. Peanut doesn’t have to be called “Mr. Peanut, The Planters Peanut Peanut.” Listen, maybe an older chef conveys the kind of warmth that General Mills was looking to represent cinnamon toast. But do I really need a chef to make my cereal? Is cinnamon toast a sufficiently complex breakfast dish to require a chef? Cinnamon Toast Crunch continues to thrive in spite of Wendell, certainly not because of him. It’s because they actually did invent cereal that tastes like cinnamon toast.
THE WORST FOOD MASCOT OF ALL TIME: The Gorton’s Fisherman (2.6 FMR) First of all, you’re hawking fish sticks and other indistinguishable fillets of fish-like products. No one is buying your story of catching these things on the high seas. These “fish” are likely farmed in a laboratory and may or may not have eyes. Secondly, you’re scary. Like old isolated fisherman scary. You’ve gone off the deep end and would like to test your filleting knife on human flesh. Lastly, why are you always wearing that stupid raincoat when it’s not raining? Let’s just watch:
The 5 Best Food Mascots of All Time
5. Punchy (6.6 FMR) The first true “punk kid” mascot as far as I’m concerned. A potentially controversial selection, as some are sure to find his personality a bit too abrasive. But you know what else is abrasive and “in your face?” HAWAIIAN PUNCH! It’s corn syrup and red dye, and they make no apologies. Punchy represents the brand perfectly, he walks up to older men and cold cocks them with a sucker punch, and he couldn’t care less about any of it. Bottom line: Punchy is the mascot you want to hate, but you end up falling in love with him. A true bad boy for the ages.
4. Pillsbury DoughBoy, A.K.A Poppin’ Fresh (7.0 FMR) On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Pillsbury DoughBoy is the mascot you want to hate for his over the top cuteness and down-home nature… but you end up falling in love with him. That laugh is contagious, and he’s been around for 50 years. Even his birth is an intriguing tale, as it was almost certainly inspired by a hallucinogenic episode of its creator: Tanttila was sitting in his kitchen in the spring of 1965, under pressure to create an advertising campaign for Pillsbury’s refrigerated dough product line (biscuits, dinner rolls, sweet rolls and cookies). He imagined a living dough boy popping out of a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can. To distinguish the dough boy from the rolls, he gave it a scarf, a chef’s hat, two big blue eyes, a blush, and a soft, warm chuckle when poked in the stomach.
3. Charlie Tuna (7.2 FMR) Perhaps a bit of a dark horse or dark tuna in the mascot world, people easily forget just what a cool cat (tuna) Charlie is. He’s got a Northeastern accent with swagger, an unflappable attitude, and the look to set it all off. This is the mascot I most want to sit down and have a beer with and just shoot the breeze. Sure, he’s a little stuck in the 70s, but retro is hip these days. Charlie is one groovy tuna, even if he can’t play an instrument.
2. The Kool-Aid Man (7.6 FMR) OH YEAHHHHH!!! The Kool-Aid Man is the perfect example of taking a seemingly tame mascot idea (a pitcher of the product), and transforming it into an over-the-top heaping of awesomeness. “Hey, let’s make the pitcher super giant.” “Even better, let’s make him bust through brick walls to save the day!!” Sure, why not? Kool-Aid Man is the perfect brand ambassador. He saves the day via a giant pitcher of sugar water. He can even do some basic gymnastics. OH YEAHHHHH!!!
1. Tony The Tiger (8.0 FMR) In an era of silly, quirky, and often outlandish cereal mascots, Tony distinguished himself with a straightforward approach of positive messages. More impressively, he manged to do so without coming off as judgmental or boring. Ironic that the best food mascot of all time is something as ubiquitous as a tiger, but that’s kind of the point. Sometimes we don’t need an over-the-top mascot doing weird things (although in the cast of Kool-Aid, we definitely need that). He’s an American icon, a hero, and a positive role model for kids of all ages. Point deductions for the weird scarf, but nonetheless a living legend. They even worked the tiger GRRR sounds into his catch phrase. BUT CAN A TIGER RIDE A HORSE IN ORDER TO BRING HUMILITY TO SOME PUNK TEENAGE RANCH KIDS??? This one can.
Rod Budget is a dad. A hungry dad. He can be heard on the podcast Hungry Dads, available in iTunes and at www.hungrydads.com