Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Doing Porridge

Looking at this iconic piece of branding smiling away in my 'pantry' this morning, I was reminded of a bizarre manifestation of the Quaker man that took place in the 1970s. But first I have to justify the appearance of an American brand on these pages. And I can't, other than to say that his friendly face has stared out at me over English breakfast tables for some time. He is, of course, nothing to do with Quakers. In fact those who gather in Friends' Meeting Houses are known to still suffer in silence over the use of the image. Although it is often attempted to give Quaker Oats (what a straightforward name for a cereal. So much better than 'Oh So Oatsy' or 'Golden Grahams') a Pennsylvanian heritage, the truth is that the name was chosen simply for its connotations of 'integrity, honesty and purity'. The painting of the Quaker was executed by Haddon Sundblom in 1957, and thankfully has not yet been superceded by the stylised corporate Quaker designed by movie title designer Saul Bass in 1971. Or, indeed, had to suffer the indignity he endured for an on-pack promotion thirty or so years ago. The offer was for a discounted anorak (seriously) and somebody thought it a wizard wheeze to dress the Quaker up in it and put a speech bubble from him saying "Two quid less than thou'dst pay in a shop". It must have been enough to make a Quaker tap-dance noisily across the parquet floor of a Meeting House.

3 comments:

A F-A said...

This HAS made me laugh! What a great exposition on the Brand, Peter! The Quakers I have met have all been honest decent folk. So, to balance things out, I feel a "Mosquito" retuned to operate on Jehovah Witness frequency would be good...

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes. I've always been more impressed by Quakers than by oats, so I suppose that makes Quaker Oats a good, positive bit of branding. I always remember Dr Johnson's factual, but surely somewhat baffled, dictionary definition: 'Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.'

Ten Inch Wheeler said...

Quaker own the Scott's Porage Oats factory (which, of course, has its own iconic packaging) - they are installing a biomass boiler so the plant can be powered entirely by oat husks.

Incidentally - did the Quakers get their name because they 'quaked' when the Lord Was Upon Them?