Tony the Tiger, the Pilsbury Doughboy and Mr. Clean all have something in common: they’re all men.
A recent study, the first of its kind, delved into gender and race representation in U.S. brand mascots, finding that for every two male mascots, there’s only one female mascot. Additionally, while people of color make up 38 percent of the U.S. population, only 15.2 percent of mascots show any hint of diversity. In a move to balance out those numbers, the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media partnered with The Jel Sert Company to commission the study.
Once the results came in, the Institute worked with The Jel Sert Company to achieve gender parity within one of the company’s major brands, Otter Pops.
“We hope that the findings from this study will inspire other brands to evaluate the impact that mascots have on children and consumers and make positive changes towards equal and positive gender representation,” Geena Davis said in a statement.
Prior to Otter Pops working with Davis and her team, the brand’s characters were only 30 percent female. Now, the brand has five male mascots (Sir Isaac Lime, Louie-Bloo Raspberry, Alexander the Grape, Poncho Punch and DJ Tropicool) and five female mascots (Anita Fruit Punch, Strawberry Short Kook, Little Orphan Orange, Cosmic Coconut and Major Mango). If you feel so inclined, you can learn more about each of the mascots here.
Children’s media creator Obie Scott Wade created the new characters for the brand. Wade noted in a statement that STEAM education played a big role in the creation of these new characters.
“As a family-owned business focused on creating products that bring people together, it was important to us that we increase that number to 50 percent,” Ken Wegner, president of The Jel Sert Company, said in a statement, adding that they were “inspired” by The Geena Davis Institute and “thrilled” to partner with them. “ … The results show a clear need for our industry to correct course and create mascots that truly represent our consumers.”
Davis and her team hope to spread the insights discovered in their research to other brands and inspire them to think about diversity in their mascot marketing mix.
The study examined 500 of the top selling products in 13 different categories, including frozen foods, beauty, grocery, pet care, household care and more. Researchers analyzed roughly 6,500 products overall and identified 1,096 mascots.
Other findings include that 25.4 percent of female mascots are shown as gender stereotypes versus 15.9 percent of male mascots. One in five female mascots (about 19.4 percent) are depicted as skinny or very skinny, while only 11 percent of male mascots are very muscular. Additionally, female mascots are more often shown as partially nude (7.5 percent versus 0.3 percent). The study also includes some key insights on mascots and race.