Scary Giant Finds His Gentler Side

How an advertising executive turned a nightmarish brand mascot into the downright lovable Jolly Green Giant.

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2016-mj-green-giantCreated in 1928, the Green Giant was originally a mascot of the Minnesota Valley Canning Company.

The character was created to sell their unusually large green peas. In early print ads, the giant looked more like a wild-haired caveman who wore bearskins and a solemn expression. Then a young Leo Burnett gave him a makeover — a green, leafy suit, green skin, a big grin, and the word Jolly in front of his name. But he was still a bit frightening.

In 1958, when he first appeared in TV ads, one of the copywriters observed that “when you try to move the Giant around and really show what he looks like, he comes off a monster. The baby cries and the dog goes under the bed.” So the Leo Burnett ad agency created his signature “Ho, ho, ho” laugh. And to make him even more approachable, he got a companion, the Little Green Sprout, in 1972. The changes helped turn the monster into something downright lovable.

The canning company, now the Green Giant Company, is today the largest vegetable brand in the world. And the Green Giant has been named one of the top 10 ad icons of the 20th century by Advertising Age magazine.

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