The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and trauma complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71. Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, Betty Crocker, and the Hostess Twinkies. Early in his career he faced a minor scandal for appearing in "Hot Crossed Buns," a short movie that exposed his affinity for the pop ‘n fresh genre. Nonetheless, Doughboy rose quickly in show business and remained a roll model for millions. Doughboy is survived by his wife Play Dough, two children, John Dough and Jane Dough, plus they had one in the oven. The funeral was held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.
The larger issue: this is a good example of a brand icon being taken up and reworked by the consumer (aka the multiplier). In this moment of "co-creation," the consumer breaths life, humor, and interest into an icon that heretofor hasn’t done much more than giggle.
A good thing? If you are one of the "new marketing" marketers, you say "yes." This is funny, lively, and animating (the funereal theme notwithstanding). If you are one of the "old marketing" marketers you blink in astonishment, mutter "an obit for my brand!" and reach for a lawyer.
As someone who belongs to the first group, I think the argument for tolerating and indeed encouraging this kind of thing is clear cut. We may think of it as a simple trade off of just the kind that BMW made when it allowed Jay Leno to introduce the Z on the stage of the Tonight show.
To get currency, spontaneity, and liveliness, we was must give up control and all hopes of micromanaging the meanings of the brand. Or to put this another way, the only way to persuade people to take an interest in the brand citadel is to throw down the draw bridge
It’s no longer "if you build it, they will come" but "if they build it, they will come."
With light editing by Grant McCracken and humor implants by Brian Kenny.