If you thought the brand mascot stories from 2016 were big, they upped the ante to be bigger and better than ever in 2017. The past 365 days have seen our favorite characters showing up to the Super Bowl, opening pop-up restaurants, celebrating landmark birthdays, and even joining us on stage for an forgettable mascot panel live in New York City! Without further adieu, here’s our annual snapshot from the year of the life with icons.
The Green Giant teased his return at the end of 2016 with #TheGiantAwakens hashtag and kicked off 2017 in larger than life commercials that featured a robust, and more realistic-looking, character. (He also received his first float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this year!)
Other mascots that hit reboot on their appearances included the Gorton’s Fisherman who applied his nautical skill sets to everyday surroundings and the regal face of Hawaiian Airlines, Pualani, who was given a richer color palette in purples for her logo revamp. (Ironically enough, Ultra Violet is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2018 — we like to think Pualani’s redesign helped inspire the pick!) AB InBev brought back the Budweiser Frogs for Bud Light’s debut in the United Kingdom while Fanta reintroduced The Fantanas in July as a flavorful group of four for the next generation.
Super Bowl 51 may go down in history as the first game to ever go into overtime, but it’ll also be remembered for its commercials starring iconic mascots. Mr. Clean became the “cleaner of your dreams” while Spuds Mackenzie returned as a specter for Bud Light. The Aflac Duck enjoyed his first Super Bowl commercial appearance while the Michelin Man subtly showed up in a blink-and-you-might-miss-it spot. And step aside Patriots and Falcons — the real rivalry was between KFC’s “Colonel vs. Colonel” starring two Colonel Sanders’ characters in white suits and string ties talkin’ about chicken.
Sequels abounded in 2017, starting with the Geico Gecko teaming up with Baby Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 for a co-branded ad together. (Try as he might, Groot couldn’t repeat the Gecko’s famous tagline as well as he could say, “I am Groot.”) The trend continued well into the winter months with the Pillsbury Doughboy and M&M’s spokescandies landing sequels, “Santa” and “Faint 2: A Very Yellow Sequel” respectively, to their famous Christmas commercials.
What’s My Name?
The Internet might have “discovered” the names of several beloved icons this year, but loyal AW 360 readers already know that we leaked that information first on Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe (Mr. Peanut), Horatio Magellen Crunch (Cap’n Crunch), and Poppin’ Fresh (the Pillsbury Doughboy).
Who better to pop up a pop-up eatery than a brand mascot? Chester Cheetah from Cheetos unveiled The Spotted Cheetah in New York City, devoted to all things dangerously cheesy in August. Meanwhile, Tony the Tiger joined Lauren Conrad for the debut of Kellogg’s NYC in November complete with — yep, you guessed it — a massive cereal bar.
Happy birthday to you! Mr. Peanut from Planters turned the big 1-0-1 this year. Smokey Bear turned 73-years-old and his fellow forest friend Woodsy Owl enjoyed his 42nd birthday. And this is 40 for not one but two mascots in 2017: Carvel’s Fudgie the Whale and Chuck E. Cheese!
This December, AOL Instant Messenger was officially discontinued with the iconic yellow Running Man announcing his retirement after 20 years. We’ve truly reached the end of a tech era — happy trails to our buddy list pal.
The mascot community lost a few of its own brilliant minds this year. Joe Harris, creator of the Trix Rabbit, passed away at 89-years-old on March 26th while Jack Keil, the advertising executive behind McGruff the Crime Dog and his iconic slogan “take a bite out of crime” died at 94 on August 25th.
AW New York Panel + Mascot Avenue Walk of Fame Winners
This September, a magical thing happened at AW New York — brand mascots including Mr. Peanut, Smokey Bear, and StarKist’s Charlie the Tuna joined us on stage for a rare glimpse into their everyday lives. We also announced this year’s 2017 Madison Avenue Walk of Fame winners — the Energizer Bunny and Fudgie the Whale.
Cheers to an amazing year of the mascot! We’ll see you again in 2018!