If childhood could be distilled into one simple image, a smile with a red sugar-stained mouth could certainly be argued as the best choice. For nearly everyone, Kool-Aid was a household constant either as an everyday soft drink or an occasional summertime treat.
As a Brand, Kool-Aid is one of only handful that can be argued has established itself as a consistent part of the American zeitgeist. From references in pop-culture to being displayed in the Museum of Modern Art, Kool-Aid describes their own history as “-a name simple but catchy, a product unprepossessing but salable. Today, a household word for millions. The Kool-Aid story is the American dream come true, the classic tale of a young man with brains, imagination, a strong work ethic and merchandising ability who was able to parlay a few simple chemicals into a multi-million-dollar business – rising from sodhouse to mansion in one lifetime.”
From the late 1800s into the first half of the next century, Edwin Perkins, inventor of Kool-Aid, moved from farm to general store, village postmaster to tobacco addiction remedy, to wholesaler of various different goods, finally settling with Perkins Chemical Company and selling everything from the tobacco remedy to a gasoline additive through a network of mail-order and door-to-door sales. Various iterations of these door-to-door sales culminated with a “sample box” of Perkins Chemical products in 1922, and the most popular item in those boxes was a summer soft drink called “Fruit-Smack.” Designed as a concentrate that families could use to make “a pitcher full of beverage for pennies,” it came in six flavors and despite its success wasn’t without its problems. Shipping the product in bottles resulted in breakage, leaking, and the weight of the glass was expensive when it was transported. Inspired by Jell-O, Perkins set to work converting Fruit-Smack from a liquid concentrate to a powder mix.
After mastering the conversion to dry mix and solving the problems of associated with its packaging, the name was changed to Kool-Aid and one of the most consistent brands in the country was born. Kool-Aid grew in popularity through the ensuing decades, its Brand swelling in popularity including commercials, comic books, and even a videogame for the Brand’s popular mascot: the Kool-Aid Man.
Beyond the product and its appealing price point, the success of the Kool-Aid Brand is one of consistency. The mascot, introduced shortly after General Foods acquired the Brand in the early 1950s, has been the same for over half a century. This makes the Kool-Aid man one of the most recognizable Brand related images in their target markets, and shows no sign of slowing down as the Company has been committed to updating the strategy rather than scrapping it or dramatically overhauling their branding focus. So watch your kitchen walls, because the Kool-Aid Man is here to stay.