In 1945, she was voted the second most famous American woman after Eleanor Roosevelt. Her name: Betty Crocker. But she didn't really exist at all.
Betty Crocker was not a real-life happy homemaker, but a fabricated character, brought to you by consumer product giant General Mills (GIS). General Mills chose the name Betty because it sounded friendly -- worthy of being a "BFF" in the kitchen.
They were right. Betty was a hit.
Clearly, there's more (or maybe less) to many brands than meets the eye. After all, if you're a big, faceless conglomerate, there's nothing like a friendly face or image to call out to consumers as they're strolling through store aisles.
Even in this era of skepticism, Google-ability, and general mistrust of big corporations, you may be surprised to learn that many of the seemingly homespun, small-time brands found on store shelves were either invented or gobbled up by big, well-known corporations.
Indie cred, indeed. Here are some brands that give off a sense of smallness, independence, familiarity -- as much of a sense of individuality as corporate logos can muster.
See our gallery on Who's Behind These 7 Brands here.
Buyer, Be Aware
The fact that many brands boast counter-cultural appeal but are actually parts of huge conglomerates isn't necessarily awful. For example, Kashi says it's still run independently in La Jolla, Calif., according to its original business philosophy. In fact, it says its mission expanded in 2000 "with a little help from a friend." (Kellogg's one heck of a big friend, that's for sure.)
Likewise, Tom's of Maine still claims to be holding true to its original all-natural mission, despite Colgate-Palmolive's involvement. On the Tom's website, it claims, "Our simple, direct approach hasn't changed one bit: we listen to what our customers want (and don't want) in their products, we learn how it can be done, and we respond with effective natural (and sustainable) solutions."
Still, from the consumer viewpoint, it's always good to know a little bit more about what you're purchasing -- and putting in or on your body -- and from whom. Your dollars equal support, after all. Betty Crocker never had a choice as to which products she'd purchase (she was obviously a General Mills gal all the way!), but American shoppers do.
Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo.
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