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A Jolly Green Giant is Forever: How to Make Your Brand More Enduring

the jolly green giant

“Wait, that’s not right,” you’re saying.

“Don’t you mean, ‘A Diamond is Forever?’”

Well, given that the season of heart shaped chocolate boxes is upon us, we thought we’d take a few moments to ponder on the question of just what is it that makes a line like “A Diamond is Forever” or an icon like the Jolly Green Giant so ever-lasting?

And does love have anything to do with it?

Back in 1992, my art director partner and I had a limited amount of success in the almost-ever-lasting marketing icon department. We created a character for a brand of charcoal that had lighter fluid already infused in it. It was a match man who at the end of the commercial lit his head on fire and set the client’s product ablaze.

It turned around sales for a brand that had been going downhill for years. It won the agency a Clio Award and they even put that little fella on the side of the bag for close to 20 years. It even survived when the account was moved from one agency to another.

But now he’s gone. Sniff, sniff.

Rather than focus on why companies KILL good ideas (personal opinion), let’s instead focus on what can give staying power to marketing efforts like “A diamond is forever” and the Jolly Green Giant?

First off, there are probably quite a few things that can contribute. But it’s a bit like asking the question, “What makes a video go viral?” If you created an algorithm and included everything about what makes a successful marketing last so long it’s highly unlikely you could simply feed in your company’s information, push a button and have the next Tony the Tiger. The same way you couldn’t look at a couple who’s been together forever and quickly surmise what’s been the bond that’s held them together.

What follows isn’t a checklist. Instead, it’s more of an observation of branding trends I've encountered over my career.

1. Make it surprising

First of all the idea should probably be a little “out there.” Something original and unexpected. “A diamond is forever” isn’t even correct English. But that’s what makes you pause for a second and think. And for the folks back in 1925 (when the green giant was conceived) you can bet they’d never seen a giant green man dressed in bearskin before, hawking of all things peas - the tiniest of all vegetables.

2. Give it time

There also needs to be a certain stick-to-it commitment from the entire organization. It takes a lot to get something into the human vernacular, and then on top of that, to have it stick around. If your idea is strategically sound, then don’t be constantly changing horses. Adjust, if necessary, but don’t abandon.

3. Put some money behind it

Don’t just pat it on the back and send it out into the world with nothing to support it. No great tagline or concept was ever just drawn up on a piece of paper and then took off. It has to be supported and seen, or heard, more than once. You may have to invest more upfront to launch your idea, but the same way rockets don’t have to burn at 100% after getting to space, you won’t have to invest as much down the road to keep the idea top-of-mind.

4. An ability to evolve

As they say, “The willow grows tall because it bends with the wind.” While “A diamond lasts forever” has changed very little in the past 60 years the visuals and stories associated with it have evolved with the times. The line was even shifted to “The diamond last forever” at one point.

And what about our jolly green friend? He actually started out as a Scowling caveman in a bearskin wrap, before getting a grin and changing over to his current leafy garb. And in 1972 he even got a little friend to join him in his marketing efforts (Little Green Sprout.)

5. Simplicity is key

It should also be simple enough to not get bogged down over time. The more complex an idea the easier it is to lose its relevance to everyday life. Remember the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid.)

6. You also need a strong brand to begin with

This means you need a good reason for your icon or idea in the first place. This is something that’s actually already been covered by our Why Your Brand is Failing Ebook so I’m not going to elaborate any more on it, but suffice to say, a great icon, logo or tagline for a crappy product isn’t going into any marketing hall of fame.

7. And finally yes, love has to play a part

There’s a certain amount of intangibleness in anything that touches so many in a way that makes them remember it year after year. Which is why if your brand should find something that seems to resonate with your audience, then get on board and ride that bad boy for all it’s worth.

As an aside, while the DeBeers tagline and the Jolly Green Giant have been running non-stop since their inception, that’s not to say that great ideas, even if at one point they get killed and buried, are gone for good.

Like characters from the Walking Dead, there are plenty of examples of long gone marketing efforts that come back to life. Taco flavored Doritos. Colonel Sanders. Miller Lite recently brought back their Steinie bottle. The fact is nostalgia sells.

So who knows, maybe one day the marketing director of a charcoal company that once had their very own Jolly Green Giant (even though he was a little red-headed match man) will elevate that “critter” to the status he properly deserves and he can take his place next to classics such as “A diamond is forever” and the Jolly Green Giant.