Selling the Energy-Intensive Lifestyle

Inventing Green: The Lost History of Alternative Energy in America has a good piece on Reddy (and other industry mascots). It gives an overview of how electricity needed to be sold in the early days (everyone used clotheslines before dryers and washed dishes by hand before dishwashers), which might seem unbelievable now, but definitely took some work back then.

…before we get into the cult of Reddy and the story of his battle with a knockoff, Willie Wiredhand, we should talk about why these mascots are important.

It’s funny to laugh at these weird, old animated figures, but they clearly meant something to the companies who used them. They were — first and foremost — effective marketing gimmicks. That should make us wonder: if electricity was so obviously great, as most technologists would contend, why did the utilities have to push it with lame mascots? Wasn’t it just, like, something people wanted?

Well, the investor-owned utilities in the cities and suburbs had a very specific task. They needed to promote electricity demand so they could justify building new plants. That was how they got paid, so they had to get people to abandon other ways of doing work and providing heating and cooling.

Hey now, Reddy wasn’t “lame!” He was just a little dorky.

On that note, here’s BrandlandUSA’s list of America’s Top 20 Advertising Mascots.