Three Real People Who Became Human Mascots

365 Days Project 004/365: KFCFrosty the Tiger, Mr Muscle, Toilet Duck, that sinister leprechaun that steals breakfast cereal from children – brand mascots are a crucial part of making people aware of your company’s products and values. They give your brand a face and a personality, whether they’re reassuring and steadfast like that guy on the Quaker Oats box, or just flat out terrifying like Ronald McDonald.

However nothing gives your brand that extra boost like having your company’s mascot be a real live person. Here are some of the best examples of people that have been turned into human advertisements.

George Foreman
George Foreman has done more in the first couple of lines of his Wikipedia page than you have in your entire life. He’s been a professional boxer with two World Heavyweight Champion titles and an Olympic gold medal under his belt, as well as being an ordained Baptist minister. Meanwhile you think you might get up now to go and get a cup of coffee, but you don’t know if you can be bothered.

Despite his wealth of achievement, when you read the name George Foreman the chances are that only one thought entered your mind. Grilled meat. Odds are you don’t even remember how this happened – I had to look it up because at the time I was 10 years old and didn’t yet know that Frosty the Tiger wasn’t a real person as well.

In 1994, at the age of 45 George Foreman regained the World Heavyweight Champion title for the second time. He attributed this achievement to leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well, two things which can apparently help with sports. Meanwhile Salton Inc was looking for a spokesperson for their new fat reducing grilling machine. They heard George Foreman was saying that living healthily helped with boxing and got in touch to say “Ahem, by ‘leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well’ is it possible you meant ‘using our grilling machine’. Also we have money!”

The rest is lean, mean, grilling history.

Colonel Sanders
We’ve all been there, whether it’s because you’re hungover or have recently been dumped, you’ve probably sat there, fingers slick with grease while Colonel Sanders’ calm, reassuring face has looked out at you from that bucket of chicken as if to say “Yes. Yes you should have eaten all that chicken.”

It’s possible you think that Colonel Sanders is no more real than Ronald McDonald or the horrifying plastic faced Burger King King. That is to say, only real in your darkest nightmares.

In actual fact Harland Sanders was born on September 9th 1890. In 1930 he opened up a service station, and from that point on became weirdly obsessed with creating a chicken recipe that people would want to eat until they felt sick.

This became the KFC we all know and eat even though it’s terrible for us. When a new interstate reduced his customer numbers he decided to franchise the business, and then sold it for $2 million.

Of course, what KFC probably doesn’t want you to remember is that their beloved Colonel couldn’t stand what his franchise became. In 1973 he sued the corporation’s new owners, Heublein Inc., over misuse of his image. A couple of years later Heublein sued him right back for libel after he described their new gravy recipe as “wallpaper paste”. That second suit was unsuccessful. Colonel Sanders was the man who legally proved that you can refer to KFC gravy as wallpaper paste…

Richard Branson
What’s Richard Branson a mascot for? Well, mainly, Richard Branson. We’re talking about someone whose hobbies include water-skiing with a naked super model hanging off his back when he’s not building a spaceport or going on mad balloon adventures. He’s basically doing everything in his power to look like a real-life Tony Stark.

People love Richard Branson, he’s half business guru, part rock star and he’s got a sense of humour about himself, which you just love in a billionaire!

So with all that going on, it’s easy to forget that his company is also quickly moving in to make a buck off the NHS outsourcing care.

Whoever took on the account management jobs for Virgin has a readymade marketing campaign in Richard Branson. They just have to hope he doesn’t sell off all his businesses and start badmouthing them to the press.

Chris Farnell is a freelance writer who covers marketing and design matters. He sometimes wonders if you could pull off a curly moustache and white suit.