When I was a kid, everyone knew the difference between Marvel super-heroes and DC super-heroes. (Did you know, by the way, that Marvel and DC own a joint trademark on the word super-hero? Hope they don’t come after this blog entry.)
DC super-folks were square and sanitized. They lived in phony-baloney places like Ivy City and Coast City and Happy Harbor, and their out-of-costume lives were pretty simple and usually involved fedoras. Marvel heroes, on the other hand, were a little edgier. They prowled the gritty street of New York and other real cities. They had real-life problems like we did, getting their homework done and paying the bills and whatnot.
Thinking about it this week, I realized there’s a similar dichotomy in the brand alignment of breakfast cereal mascots.
Kellogg’s mascots are the square DC ones. They’re total Boy Scouts. Helpful Toucan Sam always wants lost jungle explorers to find and sample his Froot Loops. Cheery Tony the Tiger thinks everything is “Grrrreat!” Snap, Crackle, and Pop are so dull they’re mostly interested in the sound that air bubbles make in their cereal. Whoo!
General Mills, on the other hand, is where Gen-Xers get the familiar Joseph Campbell cereal-commercial archetypes of their childhoods. These guys are the edgy Marvel anti-heroes, full of conflict and angst. The Trix Rabbit represents Trix, but can he even get a bowl of the stuff. from a pair of spoiled, privileged children? He cannot, so he resorts to stealing, and still he fails. Count Chocula, Frankenberry, Fruit Brute, et. al., are scary and misunderstood. Anti-spokesperson Lucky the Leprechaun doesn’t even want you to eat his damn cereal. He’s hiding.
Sonny the Cocoa Puffs cuckoo is the worst. This guy is seriously jonesing. In fact, a lot of these mascots seem to crave their cereal unhealthily, and are willing to steal, if that’s what it takes, to get it. What weird marketing concept. The modern-day equivalent would be Audi choosing a carjacking junkie as their new spokesperson.
Actually, I don’t even know if any of these mascots exist anymore. Because I’m old. Soon I will be driving 45 in the leftmost lane with my left turn signal flashing, telling you long stories at family reunions about people you’ve never met, and putting a “the” in front of the names of fast food chains. But gather round, kids: this is what cereal commercials were like when Grandpa was a boy.