A living padlock who wears a suit. An air freshener superhero. A Phillips screw dressed in a kilt. In the postwar advertising boom of the 40s through the 80s, products sold when they were living objects who cared about you!
Warren Dotz and Masud Husain are the authors of two books appropriately titled Meet Mr. Product and Mr. Product. They're filled with product mascots that have lasted the ages, such as the Pillsbury Doughboy, and those that passed on to that great creative director's wastebasket in the sky. Steven Heller writes in The Atlantic about the old practice of anthropomorphizing things that you buy:
These charming and ingratiating figures help consumers identify and trust brand names. For example, Tony the Tiger’s “they’re grrrrrrrreat” isn’t just a pitch for cereal—it’s also an enduring slogan that has become part of the vernacular. Presidents, friends, and coworkers might change, but characters like Mrs. Butterworth and the Trix Rabbit are still around, Dotz says.
“An advertising character, whether fictional or real, has a face,” he says. Those deliberately designed human features create empathy, and they become our friends. So while Kellogg’s has a recognizable logo on its products, that could never compete with the advantages of Tony the Tiger professing the greatness of Frosted Flakes or Toucan Sam promoting Froot Loops, Dotz says.