Friday, April 19, 2013

Kool-Aid and the Kool-Aid Man get a makeover

Well, here’s the news you’ve been waiting for.

Kool-Aid is now available in liquid mix.

So if you want to stay hydrated without having to drink boring old water, and you don’t want to fuss with the powdered version of Kool-Aid, you’ll now be able to get it the sweet object of your desire in liquid form

This is, by the way, nothing new for Kool-Aid.

The liquid mix is a return to Kool-Aid’s roots. It began as a syrup called ‘‘Fruit Smack’’ in 1920. The product wasn’t modified into a concentrated powder until 1927, when it was renamed ‘‘Kool-Ade.’’ The current spelling followed in the early 1930s. (Source:

Wow! Marketing renaming genius as far back as the early 1930s!

But the really big news here is not that Kool-Aid is going back to its Fruit Smack roots. It’s that the Kool-Aid Man – Oh, yeah! – is going to be getting a face lift, nay, a species lift.

The Kool-Aid Man’s species change operation is taking him from a human in a pitcher costume to a computer-generaKool-Aid Manted whatever. On the creepiness continuum, this is actually an improvement over the guy in the pitcher costume. Still, it’s one more acting gig gone bye-bye. But one actor’s job loss is one CGI designer’s job gain.  No word on whether it, having replaced a “him” (or, I guess, “her”), will also replace the cartoon character version.

And speaking of character, the Kool-Aid man is also having a personality transplant.

No more strong, silent, foam-filled type, breaking through walls with little more to say than “Oh, yeah!”.

Erica Rendall, senior brand manager at Kraft Foods Group Inc., says the new ads are intended to fill in the blanks in Kool-Aid Man’s character so people can relate to him.

‘‘He said a few things here and there (in the past), but he really didn’t have a developed personality,’’ she said.

Okay. Let’s see if I have this completely straight:

Kool-Aid used to have an actual human being dressed up in a giant foam pitcher, but somehow he wasn’t relatable.

Now it’s a graphic image, but, one with a “developed personality.”

Personally, I don’t know if that will make he, she, or it all that much more relatable.

I mean, Tony the Tiger had a personality – loud – and I never really felt the need to relate to him. Speedy Alka-Seltzer had a personality, too: perky. Yet I never felt the desire to relate to him, either.

In fact, I can’t actually think of one brand character that I can really relate to.

Jolly Green Giant?  Mr. Clean? The Charmin Teddy Bears?

Since when are these characters supposed to be relatable?

But that’s perhaps just jaded, ancient me.

Maybe I should wait to see the Kool-Aid ads before making a forever declaration here.

Hey, I may be jaded and ancient, but I do want to think of myself as someone who’s open to the possibility of new relationships. Maybe this one will do the trick:

In one of the new commercials, the scene opens with the character’s round silhouette behind a shower curtain. When he steps out, he’s a clear pitcher of water and he explains in a voiceover that his life isn’t all ‘‘cherry and sweetness.’’

Life not being all “cherry and sweetness”? I’m down with that. In fact, I pretty much figured this out just about the same time that the original Kool-Aid Man  - the cartoon fellow who sang “Kool-Aid Kool-Aid. Tastes great. Kool-Aid, Kool-Aid. Can’t wait.” – was born in 1954. (Not that I knew anything about Kool-Aid other than the jingle. We were a Zarex house, which, like Fruit Smack, was a liquid “soft drink mix.”)

And if you need any more evidence that the new Kool-Aid Man is one of us:

‘‘I put my pants on one leg at a time,’’ the voiceover notes, as he stands in front of a pantry full of Kool-Aid mixes deciding what to wear. ‘‘Except my pants are 22 different flavors. I've got grape pants, I've got watermelon pants.’’

Trying to decide what color to wear? Who, other than parochial school students, doesn’t ask this close-to-existential question each and every day?

Of course, I don’t have 22 different color of pants to pick from. There’s black. There’s blue. And there’s khaki. That’s pretty much it. But on the sweater and tee-shirt front? Way, way, way more choices than 22.

So, oh yeah, the “what to wear” quandary is definitely one that’s relatable.

But is that going to be enough to friend the Kool-Aid Man on Facebook, let alone run out and buy some mango Kool-Aid Mix (powdered or liquid). Not very likely.

Wonder what other personality traits they have up their sleeve?

I suppose it’s possible that  there is one that will actually get me to drink the Kool-Aid.


And a pour from the Pink Slip pitcher to my sister Trish for pointing this ultra-important story out to me.

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