|Out with the old, left, in with the new and slightly different.|
Maybe because we’re both gents from Ohio who ended up working in downtown Chicago. Maybe because we’re men given to chubbiness and self-promotion.
But the Quaker Oats Man is on my radar. Always has been. So when my wife came home with a container, the moment it was removed from the Sunset Foods bag I noticed something amiss. I set the old and new cylinders together on the counter.
The new Quaker Oats man is different. Windblown, for starters, his white neckerchief flapping in the breeze. His complexion paler, with rosier cheeks; his predecessor had a uniform, peach quality. The image a little smaller, his face a little thinner too, more of a distinct chin. Behind him, a faint image of farmland has been worked into the deep red background.
Could I have missed the big announcement? Online, there was nothing but a brief mention in a trade magazine earlier this year. I found more hoopla from 2012, when they last fiddled with his image. Trimming five pounds, according to Quaker, which let slip that in-house, they call him “Larry.”
Seven years is awfully quick to redo Quaker’s icon. Calls and emails were fired at Quaker — headquartered in Chicago — and PepsiCo, which bought the brand in 2001.
While waiting, I started to dig, beginning with Quakers. Formed in Britain in the 1650s, George Fox called his sect “The Society of Friends.” They immediately got in trouble for failing to bow and scrape to officialdom, and were beaten and jailed. After Fox told a judge he should “tremble at the word of the Lord” the judge called him a “quaker,” derisively. Eventually the sect started calling themselves Quakers — a kind of defiant rebranding, the way gay people started proudly referring to themselves as “queer.”
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