Annie's Homegrown: A rabbit comforts mac 'n cheese buyers
By Carlye Adler, FSB Magazine

(Fortune Small Business Magazine) -- Similar to Robert's American Gourmet, Annie's Homegrown, a Napa, Calif., company founded by former organic farmer (and Smartfood creator) Annie Withey in 1989, sells packaged food that's supposed to be better for you than competing products. But unlike the iconoclastic, fun approach that Robert's takes, Annie's sends a message of caring and concern.

Character creative director Jim Hardison says that is a sound strategy for a product purchased by adults but often consumed by their kids. "It's comfort food you can feel comfortable about," he says.


The word "homegrown" on the package supports this too. "If Hamburger Helper called itself Hamburger Helper Homegrown, you wouldn't necessarily believe it, based on everything else you know about that brand," Hardison says, "but with Annie's you do, because it combines powerfully with the rest of the story.'

Withey chose to use an illustrated rabbit for its packaging (based on her pet, Bernie), which the company's marketing materials call the 'Rabbit of Approval ' Hardison's take:

A rabbit is a smart choice for a kids' product in that it has deep psychological hooks for parents, Hardison says: "It's like a little kid itself, small, cute, cuddly, and in need of protection."

"The black-and-white line drawing evokes children's books such as The Wind in the Willows," Hardison says. The box sends a message of authenticity: Annie is real, the rabbit is real and the brand is real too.

Which commercial mascots have been the most memorable ones for you? Have any influenced the way you think about marketing your own product or service? And do you have a mascot for your company? If so, how did you choose it? Let us know by writing to

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