How The Pillsbury Doughboy Became One Of The Most Beloved Food Mascots

From Mr. Peanut to the Jolly Green Giant, the food world is filled with famous characters that make their brands more recognizable. Among the cutest of these mascots is the Pillsbury Doughboy, who has been helping the company sell its refrigerated dough and other products for over 50 years. 

The Doughboy, also known as Poppin' Fresh in reference to how the fresh dough is intended to pop out of the can, was first developed by copywriter Rudy Perz of the Leo Burnett advertising agency in 1965. After Perz came up with the initial idea, Disney designer Milt Schaffer helped with the vision of this character.

Once the Doughboy's design was finalized, he was ready for his television debut. According to the Pillsbury website, Poppin' Fresh was first introduced to American homes in November of 1965. The original commercial was made with stop-motion claymation in a time before digital animation, and featured actor Paul Frees, who had lent his voice to countless cartoons from the era, as the voice of the Doughboy. Poppin' Fresh was an instant success and helped establish brand recognition for decades to come.

Poppin' Fresh creates an emotional connection with customers

The Doughboy's design is fairly simple — after all, he's just a little guy with a chef hat and a kerchief. How then, has he helped sell 50 different products in over 600 advertisements? It all has to do with the emotional story he communicates to consumers. Per design consultation company Derek&Eric's creative partner, Adam Swan, "The best icons in the world are ... the ones that tell a really clear story about the brand itself" (via Design Week). Poppin' Fresh's adorable appearance conveys that the Pillsbury products he advertises can be made and enjoyed by the whole family.

His friendly design and cute giggle after being poked in the tummy is very endearing to audiences. In fact, there was a time when 200 letters a week were sent to Poppin' Fresh from adoring fans. It also helped that he appeared in commercials in real environments with live actors, which created the impression that the Doughboy was really there to help in the kitchen.

In a time where brand mascots are often retired, it's nice to know that the Doughboy is still the same squishy little baker we've loved for over half a century. When he's not advertising one of the best canned biscuit brands, he can be seen flying over the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and even appearing in other companies' advertisements — he's just that popular.