Tried and true brands
While standing in line at my local 7-11 store today, I saw an unexpected gum option: Bazooka Joe. I guess I knew they were still making the stuff, but I hadn’t seen it in years and I couldn’t believe how unchanged it was. The packaging, colors, even the dismally written comics were just where the 1950’s had left them. And against the jarring landscape of neon-packed shelving and physically rotating meat products, it made me really happy to know that Bazooka was still the Bazooka of my childhood.
With all the change in branding and names, sometimes you have to take a moment to appreciate some of those few tried-and-true brands that have, due to fortuitous laziness or a genuine appreciation of what lasts, stayed the same even as the world around them has changed. They have a familiarity that, as we grow ever reliant on the new and different, seems to transcend brand and just become part of life.
By no means a comprehensive list, here’s a few of the products and companies that, for better or worse, feel like home:
Dixon Ticonderoga: These are the guys who brought us the original #2 pencil, still yellow, still the utensil of choice for standardized tests and scantrons alike, and still emblematic of all things scholastic.
Penguin Books: They are still using the original 1935 logo which was hand-drawn by 21-year-old Edward Young, an office junior sent to the zoo to render the genial bird. Even the color scheme hovers near the original.
Barnum’s Animal Crackers: Haven’t changed at all. There have been spin-offs, but the original train car box with its little handle are still in production. Featuring 37 animals since 1903, the biggest brand shake-up has been the introduction of the koala to commemorate 100 years and a 1958 hardware swap to get the animals looking more like animals and less like anonymous amoebae.
PBR: Hipster devotion aside, Pabst Blue Ribbon deserves and award for staying with what works. It got it’s name and look in 1893 and has been holding the line ever since.
National Parks Service: Originally created by National Parks historian Aubrey V. Neasham in 1949, this little (woodcut?) is as classic as sweating in the backseat while your parents drag you unwillingly to every natural tourist attraction from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore.
Band-Aid: One of the few brands who, like Kleenex, have actually become the name for the object, Band-Aid has been protecting cuts and bruises since 1921, when Earle Dickson fashioned the first one to ease his wife’s cooking injuries. Brand strategy? Stick to stuff. Mission accomplished.
Converse and PF Flyers: Okay so both of these brands have had a little identity ambiguity of the years (I’m looking at you poorly thought-out Target line) but, I’m including them because they are a great example of name recognition. Even despite their misadventures, the names Converse and PF Flyers summon up our most Rockwellian childhood images and continue to represent American athleticism with a classic 1950’s purity.
Morton salt: Turns out the iconic little girl under her yellow umbrella was originally designed to communicate Morton’s greatest point of pride, that their salt flowed freely, even in wet weather. Hence the slogan, “When it rains, it pours.” Adjusted only slightly since 1914, the Umbrella Girl and her tagline are still basically the same, as is her official kitchen appointment, Keeper of Casseroles.
Camel Cigarettes: Small changes have been made, trends have faded, but Camel is still about as cool as smoking gets, especially if you’ve read Still Life With Woodpecker. Designed by Fred Otto Kleesattel in 1913 for The Reynolds Company, the logo has been fiercely protected ever since, despite several attempts to modernize it over the years. Exotic and mysterious has been, and remains their primary design focus.
Icee, Popsicle, and Otter Pop: I love these logos, especially Otter Pop who hasn’t changed a thing while Icee has apparently tried to overhaul their polar bear front man a bit. But either way, all three take us back to the good old days of absent nutritional information and Little League snack bars. Red 40, sugar, and names like Strawberry Short Kook, Little Orphan Orange and Alexander the Grape.