The Industrial Revolution allowed companies to mass produce foods on scale hitherto unseen. As companies flooded store shelves with new cereals, jarred foods, sodas, and other foodstuffs and drinks, they faced a dilemma. How do you make your product stand out to consumers amongst the products of your multifarious competitors? The answer, they soon found out, was to create an appealing brand name and package for your product. Consumers, as they always will, liked bright, shiny boxes with cheery names and pictures on them.
Some companies found that, in particular, they could significantly increase sales by creating mascots for their products. Planters, for example, created the anthropomorphic nightmare Mr. Peanut to scare consumers into buying their product. With his ever-present cane, top hat, and monocle, Mr. Peanut was the kind of "person" you would imagine lording over a vast plantation where he would work lesser peanuts to their untimely deaths. Then, to recoup his costs, he would sell the remains to human consumers as a snack. Or so you imagined whenever you ate Planters Peanuts, and you ate them by the handful in the hopes that the profits from this business would satisfy him enough to leave humans relatively alone. Call it a policy of appeasement.
Meanwhile, Duracell created the Energizer Bunny simply to sell more batteries. He was a cute pink bunny that liked to wear sunglasses and mercilessly beat a drum, which brought to mind a savage beating a war drum to the beat of a human heart as his fellow bunny tribesmen chased someone through a dark foreboding forest. "Nothing outlasts the Energizer," Duracell bragged. It became a sort of a slogan for our 24/7 society, encouraging us to become a nation of insomniacs. People were expected to work more than ever as sleep became to be viewed as a weakness in corporate America. We all wanted to be like the Energizer Bunny, living the dream of eternal wakefulness.
Some believe that the Energizer Bunny wore sunglasses to shield his dilated pupils, a side effect of the coffee and amphetamine cocktails he purportedly enjoyed on a frequent basis. It was no coincidence that after the Energizer Bunny was popularized on television commercials, Ritalin prescriptions for children skyrocketed. All Duracell knew was that the longer we stayed awake, the more batteries we would use, and that our cultural identification with the Energizer Bunny would influence us to choose Duracell batteries. As Ritalin-addled kids played on their Game Boys until the wee hours of the morning, Duracell executes raised glasses of champagne to toast to their company's record profits.
Perhaps the most ingenious mascot, Jvony, was thought up by Vlasic, a company known foremost for their pickles. Jvony was a pickle-loving stork that delivered babies to expectant mothers. Vlasic thought Jvony up in the 1960s, when there was a widespread belief that pregnant woman had peculiar cravings for pickles. Say... if a teenage girl put one too many pickles on her hot dog or hamburger, it wasn't uncommon to see her boyfriend or dad break out in a cold sweat. Such things were watched fastidiously in those times.
Also, as most of you already know, the idea of storks delivering babies is a myth popularly told to young children to explain where babies come from. Storks, according to the myth, play an integral role in "childbirth" (however you want to define that word in this most unusual case). When you put two and two together, the subtext becomes clear: if a pregnant women doesn't eat Vlasic pickles, Vlasic will see to it that she doesn't get her baby, and that they'll deliver the best babies to the women who eat the most Vlasic pickles. This wasn't lost on consumers, and Vlasic quickly transitioned from a regional brand to a nationwide brand.
A good brand and a good mascot (which is part of the brand), it seems, is worth even more to a company than a good product.
Keep in mind that most of the information in this article is readily available on the web sites for the parent companies of these mascots. Additionally, I encourage you to perform searches on as many other mascots as possible. There are dozens of other mascots that are just as evil. Try googling "Ronald McDonald and the John Wayne Gacy connection". Hopefully by the time you read this I haven't been assassinated.