Photo: Pixar. Wikia
The iconic Mr. Potato Head toy was first manufactured in 1952.
Originally conceived and designed as plastic pieces to be inserted into a real potato, complaints over moldy vegetables soon led to the inclusion of a plastic potato body.
The toy’s popularity resulted in further members of the Potato Head family being introduced, as well as the character’s appearance in films such as the Toy Story franchise, Burger King advertisements and on children’s television shows.
In 2008 the character was also featured as one of the giant helium balloons at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The manufacturers, Hasbro Inc., made two key innovations with Mr. Potato Head’s marketing campaign.
- It was the first children’s toy to ever be advertised on television; although this was a novelty in itself, it is unsurprising that advertising would take advantage of the new televised media form as it came into maturity.
- More significantly, however, Mr. Potato Head was marketed directly at children, meaning the campaign was the first example of using television advertising to directly encourage children to request certain products from their parents. And thus, ‘pester power’ was born.
With more than one million units sold within the first year, Hasbro’s innovative marketing was a clear success.
It opened the door for what are now familiar 30-second advertising slots on television, and introduced the idea of marketing to children directly, as opposed to their parents.
These two simple ideas have been applied ever since, and still inform the format of many televised children’s toy advertisements today.
Holiday Marketing Takeaway
Although there are strict regulations about advertising to children, marketing softly at this valuable audience can still produce considerable pester power.