New, watered-down Kool-Aid Man just wants to be loved

Hey, Kool-Aid Man. Uh, what’s up?
Hey, Kool-Aid Man. Uh, what’s up?
Image: Kraft Foods Group
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Kraft Foods is set to unveil a new personality for Kool-Aid, its 93-year-old drink mix that has permeated American culture like a soluble powder dissolving in water. The marketing campaign will refashion Kool-Aid Man—the anthropomorphic pitcher best known for breaking down walls and shouting, “Oh yeah!”—as a more personable and relatable character.

To that end, Kool-Aid Man will be transformed from a guy in a foam suit to a computer-generated image, assuming the personality of a celebrity who just wants to be seen as normal. ”I put my pants on one leg at a time,” he says in one commercial. “Except my pants are 22 different flavors. I’ve got grape pants, I’ve got watermelon pants.”

Kool-Aid man was introduced in 1954. He is a beloved character, in some ways, but his mannerisms can come off as creepy, and his penchant for entering rooms without using the door is sometimes unwelcome, the subject of a running gag on the TV show Family Guy. “He really didn’t have a developed personality,” Erica Rendell, senior brand manager at Kraft Foods, acknowledged to the Associated Press.

Drink mixes, including Kool-Aid, have seen declining sales lately, but they remain popular among African-Americans and Hispanics. New competitors include Krafts Foods’s own MiO and Coca-Cola’s Dasani Drops, which are liquid flavorings. Kool-Aid, which itself began as a syrup called Fruit Smack in 1920, shows its age next to those brands. It also can’t help that “drinking the Kool-Aid” has come to mean, in American parlance, mindlessly following a dogma, after followers of a cult in Guyana killed themselves with cyanide mixed in a powdered fruit drink.

The new Kool-Aid Man may be more like someone you’d enjoy having a beer with, but his rebranding may just leave Americans nostalgic for the pitcher of fruit juice they knew as children, whom you can fondly remember in the ads below.