Famous brands such as Mary Kay Cosmetics (Mary Kay Ash), Ford Motor Company (Henry Ford) and Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart) are eponymous brands, meaning they are named after real people. Did you know these five charming trademark characters aren’t named after real people after all?
Betty Crocker was not always a cultural icon. In the 1920s—well before Betty Crocker became a household name—the Washburn Crosby Company (a flour-milling company and General Mills’ largest predecessor) invented “Betty Crocker” to help personalize responses to the flood of letters they received asking baking questions.
The company took the surname of a recently retired company director, William G. Crocker, and combined it with the friendly-sounding first name “Betty” to make her relatable to the general public. Over time, Betty Crocker has become one of the most well-known fictional brand personalities and trademark characters.
Ronald McDonald is often attributed to former “Today Show” weatherman Willard Scott, who also played “Bozo the Clown” on a children’s television show in the 1960s. According to Scott, McDonald’s approached him during the popular years of the show and asked for his help in designing a character to sell its hamburgers to children. The result — Ronald McDonald — was an immediate hit and is actually credited with boosting sales by nearly 30%.
Even though he is a fictional character, many people work full-time to this day dressing up as Ronald McDonald and visiting children’s hospitals.
Though Sailor Jack has adorned Cracker Jack caramel popcorn boxes since the early twentieth century, he isn’t really named after a sailor. To the contrary, Jack was was created to embody the already established Cracker Jack brand.
According to Frito-Lay, Inc., the current owner of the Cracker Jack brand, the name was trademarked after a salesman tried the product in the early twentieth century and exclaimed, “That’s crackerjack,” which at the time, meant something along the lines of, “That’s excellent!”
The famous baseball seventh inning stretch introduced in 1908 – Take Me Out to the Ballgame — gave Cracker Jack a ton of free publicity with the line: “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack!”
Mr. Pibb was an afterthought! In the early 1970s, to compete with Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola introduced its version of fruit-flavored soda to the market under the name Peppo.
Dr. Pepper sued for trademark infringement, claiming that the term “Peppo” was way too close to “Pepper,” which had been in use for nearly 100 years by that point. Coca-Cola renamed it Dr. Pibb, but that too was a problem. They ultimately compromised and settled on Mr. Pibb.
McGruff the Crime Dog
McGruff the Crime Dog is famous for explaining to children how they can help “take a bite out of crime,” but he wasn’t named after a real dog. A marketing firm designed the character to help mascot the National Crime Prevention Council’s national crime awareness campaign in the early 1980s.
A few years later, the mascot was officially named by a police officer from New Orleans who entered the winning moniker – McGruff the Crime Dog — in a naming contest. He has been “taking a bite out of crime” ever since.
Check back for more brand stories and fun facts! In the meantime, what are your favorite trademark characters?