Ay, matey, Pirate's Booty hopes mascot sells snacks
The pirate on Robert's American Gourmet puffs looks 'fun without being threatening,' says an expert.
By Carlye Adler, FSB Magazine

(Fortune Small Business Magazine) -- According to the pros at Character product mascots succeed when they embody a brand's inherent conflict. In the case of Robert's, founded in 1986 by ex-commodities trader Robert Ehrlich, with about $50 million a year in sales, the conflict is snack food that's fun to eat but is also good for you. (Its all-natural ingredients include spinach and kale.) Even the product names' Veggie Booty, Smart Puffs, and Nude Food combine these traits: healthy food that feels indulgent.

Robert's uses dozens of mascots, including a pilot, Sigmund Freud, and a mischievous-looking pirate on its signature product, Pirate's Booty. "These are characters who refused to accept the standard way of doing things, either by pioneering revolutionary approaches or by living outside the normal rules of society," explains Jim Hardison, creative director at Character.


The drawings are based on Ehrlich (except the Einstein-ish character on Smart Puffs, inspired by his father, Mel), but Hardison says the style of drawing is irreverent, fun is more important than the specific individuals shown. Here, Hardison's analysis of the pirate:

  • The character's eye is drawn in a way that tracks when you look at it, creating a connection with buyers. A concerned eyebrow and smile makes him mischievous, not evil or dangerous.
  • The cartooniness of the pirate supports that too, in that a realistic pirate is a dark, negative character who breaks laws. This is just transgressive enough to be fun without being threatening.
  • As Ehrlich expands overseas, he may want to replace the mascot in certain locales (such as the Caribbean, which was repeatedly plundered by pirates).

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 fsb_mail@timeinc.com.

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