From cereal-hoarding leprechauns to giants made of tires, plenty of brands have relied on mascots to help raise their profile and win over consumers.
But even the most popular mascots sometimes fade away. Considerable took a look at some characters famous brands have left behind.
1. Speedee: McDonald’s original mascot
Ronald McDonald is a johnny-come-lately compared with Speedee, a character who wore a chef’s uniform and had a hamburger patty for a face (or was it just a patty-shaped human face? The jury is still out). Named after the McDonald brothers’ “Speedee Service System,” which set the precedent for fast-food service across the country, Speedee was meant to represent the quick order-to-takeout times that McDonald’s promised.
Speedee was dethroned by Ronald McDonald in 1963 (the first version of whom was nothing less than terrifying), when Ray Kroc bought the empire from the Micky D’s brothers and formed the McDonald’s Corporation. Alka Seltzer had a mascot named Speedy, and it certainly wouldn’t have been good for any customers to get the two confused.
It looks like Ronald is here to stay, but there are still two McDonald’s that feature the original Speedee signs for those who want to take a trip down retro memory lane.
2. Punchy, the Hawaiian Punch Guy
Hawaiian Punch became a popular beverage in grocery stores and refrigerators during the 1950s, and in 1961 “Punchy,” the Hawaiian Punch Guy, entered the scene. Created by Martin Mandelblatt of the Atherton-Privett ad agency, he was clad in a straw hat and striped shirt and was known for literally punching the victim of his commercial, named Oaf, in the face in a rather … violent … juice campaign.
While Punchy no longer skips around punching Oaf on TV, he’s still featured on many of the product labels and imagery.
3. W.C. Frito
Modeled after comedian W.C. Fields, W.C. Frito was a top-hatted, full-suited gentleman who praised the joys of Lay’s corn chips.
W.C. replaced the Frito Bandito in 1971 after pressure from the National Mexican Anti-Defamation Committee, who pointed out the insensitive and racist stereotypes that the pseudo-Mexican bandit embodied.
(Frito-Lay also got in hot water with an ad hawking its SalsaRio Doritos. The musician Tom Waits sued the company for mimicking his famous growl, and collected $2.6 million for his trouble.)
4-7. Snap, Crackle and Pop … And their fourth partner, Pow!
The elves known as Snap, Crackle, and Pop first made their way onto a box of Rice Krispies in 1941, representing the sounds made when milk hits the cereal. The trio still adorn Rice Krispie boxes, but their short-lived fourth compatriot is missing.
For two TV spots in the ’50s, the elves were joined by another onomatopoeia-named compatriot, Pow, who was a friend of the three elf brothers’ family, apparently. “Pow” is not a sound that the cereal makes, but rather a moniker short for “power,” meant to represent the nutritional punch the whole grain cereal gave consumers.
Pow wore a spacesuit and cape and was an elf that traveled the galaxy, a marketing move born out of the American space craze.
Unfortunately for the space elf, “Snap, Crackle, Pop, and Pow” just didn’t quite have the same ring as “Snap, Crackle, and Pop,” and it was a bit awkward to constantly explain Pow’s role. The Pete Best of cereal history, Pow was cast aside while the rest of the group continued as a trio.
8-9. Buster Brown and his dog Tige
Buster Brown and his trusty pit bull Tige became shoe company icons only after they’d achieved media fame as stars of a popular comic strip.
The duo (and Buster’s sweetheart Mary Jane), began appearing in their comic-strip adventures in 1902, and in 1904 the Brown Shoe Company began utilizing their likenesses after the comic creator Richard F. Outcault sold the rights at the Chicago World’s Fair.
The pair rejoined Brown shoe campaigns in the ’80s and ’90s, and are best-remembered as its brand mascots.
10. The Ty-D-Bowl Man
Because who wouldn‘t want a tiny sailor in their toilet?
Ty-D-Bowl remains one of the most popular brands of toilet cleaner, thanks in large part to its iconic mascot, the Ty-D-Bowl Man. Clad in nautical attire, the intrepid Ty-D-Bowl Man captained a boat that sailed around toilet bowls, appearing in TV commercials from 1968 to 1984.
Responsible for both the association of ultra-blue water with a clean toilet and with kids peering into toilets to try to find the toilet bowl sailor, the Ty-D-Bowl Man may no longer be featured in living room screens, but he remains a quintessential emblem of bathroom cleanliness for those who remember him.
11. The Noid
Domino’s mascot was wildly popular — until he inspired a real-life crime spree.
The mischievous Noid was a villain hellbent on delaying pizza deliveries, inspiring the catchphrase, “Avoid the Noid” as well as two video games and plenty of merch.
Alas, in one of the most bizarre ad campaigns gone wrong, the Noid had to retire after a man named Kenneth Lamar Noid took two Domino’s employees hostage in 1989, claiming he was the Noid, or at least certainly the inspiration behind the mascot. The hostages escaped, but Domino’s phased out the mascot.
12. Mr. ZIP
Last but not least is Mr. ZIP, a cartoon postman sent to raise consciousness about using ZIP codes in mailing addresses.
Introduced in 1963, the Zone Improvement Plan codes took some getting used to, and many people simply omitted them from their envelopes.
Mr. ZIP (initially called Mr. P.O. Zone, which didn’t exactly roll off the tongue) was called to the scene to help remind Americans of the importance of those five digits. He appeared on stamps, in TV commercials, and even in a Post Office-sponsored variety show until the late 1970s.
In 2013, he reappeared on stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ZIP code.