Procter & Gamble today got swept up in Wall Street’s deal frenzy, announcing a deal to merge its American icon product line, Pringles, into nut company Diamond Foods.
And believe me, Diamond was not nuts to acquire Pringles, which are sold in more than 140 countries around the world and, for better or worse, vouch for good ol' American marketing wizardry.
Wikipedia details the colorful history of Pringles. Soaps giant P&G launched Pringles in 1968 as the Cincinnati-headquartered company eyed inroads in the snacks category. Those were simpler times.
Today, P&G would spend millions for focus groups and branding experts just to come up with a name for the crisps (not chips) in a tube product. Back then, the Pringles name was selected from a phone book that had listings for Pringle Drive in Finneytown, Ohio, according to Wikipedia. P&G executives liked the pleasing sound of Pringles.
Tatham-Laird and Kudner Advertising, which had the “Mr. Clean” account, shot the first Pringles commercial. The rest is history. [Xerox today uses a buffed-up Mr. Clean in its corporate campaign that promotes its job of cleaning up P&G’s documents worldwide.]
P&G did have some marketing mishaps with Pringles. The original pitch as Pringles as “newfangled potato chips” had “real” chipmakers cry foul. The Food and Drug Administration weighed in on the matter in 1975, ruling that P&G could only market Pringles as chips only if they are identified with the unappetizing qualifier of “potato chips made from dried potatoes.” Yuck!
P&G’s marketing gurus then decided that “crisps” weren’t such a bad term after all.
Some oddities. Part of the remains of Frederic Baur, the organic chemist and genius responsible for creating Pringles’ tubular paperboard can with foil-lined interior and resealable plastic lid, are buried in one of his beloved containers. When Baur died in 2008, his children honored his request to put some of his cremated remains in a Pringles tube. It’s not clear whether he wanted an original, salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, cheddar cheese or barbeque flavored tube. In 2001, P&G decided to remove the eyebrows from “Julius Pringles,” the mustached cartoon caricature of the brand.
In Asia, Pringles markets soft-shelled crab, grilled shrimp, seaweed, blueberry & hazelnut and lemon flavors. Grilled shrimp crisps are pink, while seaweed is green.
The Diamond deal shows that Pringles sharply rebounded from last year’s salmonella scare connected to its taco and cheeseburger-flavored Pringles. Diamond CEO Michael Mendes refers to Pringles as an “iconic, billion dollar snack brand” that has been “built over 45 years with a combination of proprietary products, unique package design and significant advertising investment.” The trick for Diamond is to apply the same marketing and technical savvy that P&G showered upon its invention. P&G stands ready to protect its Pringles heritage. It will own 57 percent of the merged company.
Note: I haven’t had a Pringles crisp in 20 years. Guess it’s time.