This fall, you’re cordially invited to Mr. Potato Head’s wedding. He’s marrying his partner of many years, another Mr. Potato Head. And I promise it’s going to be the party of the year, with—you guessed it—plenty of spuds on the menu.
The toy giant Hasbro is rebranding its iconic Mr. Potato Head toy by dropping the “Mr.” from the name. On the surface, it may seem like a subtle shift, but it is designed to break away from traditional gender norms, particularly when it comes to creating Potato Head families—how toddlers frequently play with the toy, according to Hasbro’s research. But starting this fall, when the new brand is unveiled, kids will have a blank slate to create same-sex families or single-parent families. It’s a prime example of the way heritage toy brands are evolving to stay relevant in the 21st century.
On Thursday, after Hasbro faced a wave of backlash from consumers resistant to this change, it clarified on Twitter that it would continue to sell individual Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head toys. The difference is that the brand name and the family sets will be gender neutral to promote more inclusivity. Indeed, images Hasbro released of these boxed sets portray families on the packaging with two dads and two moms, along with a heterosexual couple.
Hasbro launched Mr. Potato Head in 1952 for the princely sum of $0.98 (or $10 in today’s currency). Back then, families had to supply their own real potato, which kids could then turn into little people thanks to plastic pieces in the box, such as hands, feet, and eyes, and accessories such as a pipe, and felt pieces that were meant to be mustaches. The following year, Mrs. Potato Head launched with feminized accessories, such as hair bows and red high heels. The Potato Heads were the first toys to be marketed directly to kids, and boy did that strategy work like gangbusters: More than one million kits were sold in the first year.
The enduring success of Potato Head comes down to its sheer silliness, says Kimberly Boyd, an SVP and GM at Hasbro who works on the Potato Head brand. The idea of a potato person with an enormous mustache is universally hilarious, particularly to the sensibilities of small children. But after that initial laugh, Boyd says that kids continue to engage with the toy because it provides a canvas onto which they can project their own experiences. “The sweet spot for the toy is two to three years old,” she says. “Kids like dressing up the toy, then playing out scenarios from their life. This often takes the form of creating little potato families, because they’re learning what it means to be in a family.”
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SOURCE: Fast Company, Elizabeth Segran