Five Famous Female Frontwomen

1

Betty Crocker, 77 Years Old

In 1921, Gold Medal Flour cooked up the name Betty Crocker as a way of personalizing responses to customer letters. Advice from Betty was so popular that the company decided to create the mascot Betty in 1936. Her look has been updated seven times since (most recently in 1996), morphing from a matronly lady to one who today embodies four brand attributes: She’s resourceful, committed to family, community-minded and likes to bake. Alas, Betty doesn’t make personal appearances—but she’ll still send you baking tips. There’s always a Betty on duty at General Mills HQ and, as associate marketing manager Maria Jaramillo assures us, “she is on top of the latest food trends.”

2

Progressive’s Flo, 5 Years Old

Let’s admit this much: Nobody really likes insurance companies. Which is what has made Progressive’s fictitious customer service rep Flo such an unlikely phenom. Sassy but smart, Flo (played by actress Stephanie Courtney) has starred in 75 TV spots and has 5 million Facebook fans. Her popularity is equal parts marketing and metaphysics. To hear CMO Jeff Charney tell it, Flo was born of the quest of “making something intangible—insurance—into the tangible.” Of course, Geico’s Cavemen did that, too. But Flo’s a nice girl, someone you might want to hang out with, and that’s the difference. “We knew customers would relate to Flo,” Charney says, “because people can see themselves in her.”

3

Mrs. Butterworth, 52 Years Old

If you’re over 40, you probably remember those TV spots in which the Mrs. Butterworth’s bottle comes to life and talks to kids at the breakfast table. Maybe it freaked you out, but you remembered it. Even though the bottle hasn’t moved in a while, Mrs. Butterworth’s continues to reap all the benefits her name and character imply. “A big part of her appeal is her nurturing, grandmotherly personality,” explains brand manager Rebecca Blank. (She’s got a point. Could Mr. Butterworth’s ever leave consumers with the warm fuzzies?) These days, Mrs. Butterworth’s talks to her “dears” on Facebook—fans who know, by the way, that her real name is Joy. But you can just call her by the name that made her an icon.

 

4

M&M’s Ms. Brown, 1 Year Old

Ms. Brown put the marketing world on notice last year when, starring in her first Super Bowl spot, she put two dumb, gawking jocks in their place with the line: “My shell is brown—it just looks like my milk chocolate is showing.” As the newest female brand mascot, the M&M’s “spokescandy” follows up the 1997 debut of her colleague Ms. Green. Explains Mars Chocolate chief consumer officer Roy Benin, “Ms. Green was introduced to help keep ‘the boys’ in line,” referring to Red, Blue and Orange. Asked why it is that the female spokescandies have achieved such a following, Benin responds, “We think the appeal has to do with the fact that you rarely see empowered female brand characters.”

5

Chicken of the Sea Mermaid, 61 Years Old

No chauvinism intended, but for a 61-year-old creature from the deep, the Chicken of the Sea mermaid is one very good-looking lady. So she’s had five makeovers in her time, but this marine mascot with the 83 percent recognition rate remains one of the most enduring arguments for the female brand icon. “Today, a lot of brands target the female head of household,” says marketing manager Erin Mrozek. “But the forward-thinking leaders of our organization cast the mermaid in the leading role more than 60 years ago. Not only does she appeal to the female demographic, she’s proved highly relatable to men.” Given her new, healthier profile, that’s little wonder. What’s more, Mrozek adds, “she is highly knowledgable about seafood.”