Return To Main PageCOMMANDO LOGO

3/18/99 - Endangered Species

A little more than a month ago, it looked like Louie the Lizard and his reptilian friends were headed for extinction. Bud set up their demise with Super Bowl spots in which Louie mocked the Budweiser heritage and provoked the Busch family into sending the whole frog pond gang to the croaker.

That must have been good news for the folks at #2 brew Miller, who recently offed a spokesman of their own, Dick. Today, a Dickless Miller is trying to raise sales with an update of their "Tastes Great/Less Filling Campaign" (which is essentially a variation on the "Certs is a Candy Mint/Certs Is a Breath Mint" debate).

It seems like Miller can't catch a break. Last week they canned a new, unaired MGD campaign due to distributors' objections. And now Bud just announced their frogs and lizards will continue their cold-blooded campaign to swamp the competition with share loss.

It's nice to see that these spokescritters have been given a reprieve, since many of their colleagues have wound up as roadkill in recent months. Merrill Lynch slaughtered their famous bull in favor of celebrating "human achievement." And the eternally youthful Peanuts gang was eased into retirement by a Met Life campaign inspired by the new CEO's fascination with the company's history.

Even Tony the Tiger has been relegated to fleeting appearances in the background of a Frosted Flakes campaign featuring a flaky stockboy (a character who joins a long line of cereal psychos like the Trix Rabbit and Sonny, the Coco Puffs Cuckoo).

Of course, Tony's been taking the backseat ever since Frosted Flakes began pitching the adult market with the long-running, confessional "Shadows" campaign. And, even though he's less animated, he still has a strong presence in the campaign through lots of packaging and the stockboy's T-shirt.

Generally speaking , cereal box characters seem to be immune to brand makeover attacks. It's as if they're the cartoon equivalent of Swiss citizens. Consider the longevity of the aforementioned Trix Rabbit, Snap, Crackle & Pop, Lucky Charms Leprechaun, Sugar Bear and Toucan Sam.

For added job security, it sure helps to have the product named after you--just ask Cap'n Crunch and Count Chocula.

Perhaps these brand images aren't messed with so consumers will develop a relationship with these products and continue using them through adulthood. But then, that should be the goal of just about any brand, but is rarely achieved. Has the cereal industry somehow cornered the market on consistent brand managers?

Back in that dark Busch Gardens swamp, the future looks bright for more reptilian repartee. But, I'm sure they're watching their tails (at least the lizards are). After all, it's only been about ten years since their predecessor, Bud Light's popular pooch Spuds McKenzie, got sent to the dog pound.