Robertson’s jam is ditching “Golly” after nearly a century, leaving aficionados scrambling for the last of the enamel pin badges depicting the mascot in different poses and uniforms.
The jam maker, which has used the motif since the son of the company’s founder introduced it as “Golliwog” in 1910, weathered the storms of political-correctness during the 1980s and 1990s astonishingly well.
Golly survived while social campaigners debated about whether [s]he perpetuated racial stereotypes; the character was removed from television adverts in 1988 and the Greater London council stopped buying the company’s products in 1983. It emerged yesterday that the Commission for Racial Equality has even approached Robertson’s several times with concerns about the mascot.
The pin-badge-for-coupons loyalty scheme has seen the production of over 20 million badges in Golly’s time, and auctions have seen rare badges fetch more than £100 (US$144). Robertson’s has continued to sell about 250,000 pin badges every year.
Ginny Knox, Robertson’s brand director, told the Guardian: “We receive around ten letters a year from people who object to the character. That compares to 45m jars of jam and mincemeat sold annually.”
The decision to ditch the black mascot was motivated then by commercial reasoning and a need to contemporise the brand, explained parent food group Ranks Hovis McDougall (RHM) yesterday.
Golly just isn’t popular with kids, and from next month his place on the jam jar will be taken by a host of Roald Dahl characters. Mr and Mrs Twit and the Witches may not be the most politically correct of potential replacements for Golly, but they have a deeper marketable resonance among the nation’s children and their immortalisation in Quentin Blake’s drawings lends itself well to badges.
“Golly has done an absolutely sterling job for Robertson’s, but our research shows that for today’s families he is not as well known as Willy Wonka or the BFG. We want to move our brand on with the times,” explained RHM.
Golly will however continue to appear on jars of mincemeat until Christmas and the company will continue to honour coupon pledges by producing golly badges until next Easter.
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