Where do ‘Brands’ go to Die?

cad_poke_stillI read a press release yesterday announcing that the Museum of Broadcast Communication in Chicago will present “A Salute to Advertisings Greatest Icons” beginning in May.

The exhibition will “examine the creation and evolution of the characters from their inception to contemporary use, through commercials, vintage print ads and packaging, and a wide variety of character memorabilia. Advertising agencies and brand historians will describe how the characters were designed and how they have evolved over the years.”

Among the brands/characters/pop culture icons showcased will be:

  • Pillsbury Doughboy (General Mills)
  • Jolly Green Giant (General Mills)
  • Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes) (Kelloggs)
  • Snap, Crackle & Pop (Rice Krispies) (Kelloggs)
  • Keebler Elves (Keebler…duh)
  • Ronald McDonald (McDonalds…duh again)
  • Procter & Gambles Mr. Clean (Procter & Gamble)
  • 9 Lives Morris the Cat (Procter & Gamble)
  • Charlie the Tuna (StarKist) (Procter & Gamble)
  • Raid Bugs (S.C. Johnson)

OMG…how I want to poke the belly of the Pillsbury Doughboy and make him giggle!

According to the president of the museum These beloved characters helped define many of the worlds top consumer brands, and each has become synonymous with their brand in commercials, print ads, packaging and on grocery shelves.” 

It’s kind of nifty that these characters continue to have active lives; Poppin’ Fresh (the doughboy) (OMG…he’s so cute!) has been getting a finger jammed in his tummy since 1965. Ronald McDonald has been scaring amusing children for the same length of time. Last year, you may recall, McDonald’s announced Ronald was getting a makeover. Not quite sure how that has turned out; I, along with countless others, thought it was creepy as hell.


This got me thinking about the types of brands we blather on about in HR and Recruiting; employer brand, culture brand, branded (aka ‘talent’) communities, HR brand, personal brand.

I can guarantee you, with some degree of certainty, there will never be a museum exhibit dedicated to fabulous branding by human resources teams.

And I wonder if one of the reasons is because so many of these “HR driven” branding initiatives wither away. Oh sure, there are employer brands that evolve, transform, and remain strong (Google, Apple, Starbucks, et al.). The HR brand within an organization may shift dramatically with the addition of a new CHRO. People dissect, re-imagine, and reposition their personal brands all the time.

But sometimes the brands that HR teams are ‘responsible’ for just go “pffffffft”.

Why? I can think of a few reasons:

  • Employer branding is siloed in talent acquisition instead of carried throughout the entire employee life cycle
  • There is no integration with the company’s consumer brand
  • Something is built or constructed in the belief that ‘if we build it … people will come’
  • People invested in the nurturing and furthering of the brand leave the organization

And isn’t that last point critical? We can grasp its importance in SMBs but I think it’s a relevant point in large multi-faceted enterprises as well.

This may go against what we try to believe. We get behind the rallying cry “there’s no I in team” and discount the drive and contribution of that one person who is a fierce believer, promoter and passion-ista. The loss of that one team member, co-worker or leader can also mean the loss of ideas, excitement and brand energy.

And when that happens does the brand go somewhere else? Does it land in some sort of brand boneyard? Can it be resuscitated and resurrected?

I think it can; although it may never be the same. Sort of like a Zombie.

But zombies are sort of cool.








(1) Pillsbury Doughboy image

(2) image courtesy of WearYourBeer



One thought on “Where do ‘Brands’ go to Die?

  1. I wonder if we’ll ever see an iconic HR brand that creates such an experience it’ll be inducted into some sort of hall of fame. So far, I have seen very few but none of them come close.

    I’m going to create a unicorn ATS and that will be in the HoF 🙂

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