The Puppet Sees Some Hope

Late last week, Moneybox attempted to duck the election brouhaha by noting the passage of and thus the uncertain future of its mascot, the famous sock puppet. Some of the response e-mails that I received echoed “Fray” comments now attached to the original article–suggestions that the puppet be drafted for the presidency, jokes about the Conan O’Brien show’s satirical puppet, etc.

But two respondents also suggested precedents for a mascot freed from its original master (or product). One  of these pointed to the The Famous Chicken (formerly The San Diego Chicken), which apparently started out as the mascot for a radio station before jumping over to professional sports. The reader muses that perhaps some expansion team or other will call itself the Sock Puppets.

Meanwhile, another reader e-mailed me to make a case concerning Little Nipper, one of the most famous ad icons ever. I’ve always associated the dog listening to a Victrola (hearing “His Master’s Voice”) with RCA. Actually the early owner of the Nipper trademark was recording pioneer Emile Berliner, who founded recording companies in the United States, the UK, and Germany. Nipper’s likeness was used on behalf of each one. (In the United States, it was American Victor, later RCA Victor.)

Successors to these companies are now owned by EMI and by BMG, which needless to say compete against each other in what has long since become a global market, and the upshot is that various trademark restrictions have severely curtailed Nipper’s use in recent years. (Lengthier explanations can be found here and here. Here also is more on the dog, the man who painted his portrait, and assorted Nipper iconography; thanks to James Curran for the links.) Recent reports that BMG and EMI are discussing a merger hold out the possibility, I suppose, that Nipper could yet make a comeback as a truly global brand icon.

Anyway, this isn’t really a parallel to the puppet because Nipper apparently never had a company go bankrupt on him or had to start from scratch. But the point is that Nipper’s story indicates just how fluid and flexible certain brand icons can be. This may prove to be good news for whoever secures the rights to the puppet, particularly since seems likely to prove pretty easily forgettable in the long run.

The other point of this item was of course to give you, the reader, a break from the Florida recount. I hope it helped.