Hasbro’s Big Potato Head Decision; What it Tells Us

Hasbro’s decision to drop the “Mr.” from what is now called the “Potato Head” brand has caused gender panic in certain parts of our society. Although it is easy to ridicule (and I mean really easy) those who go to pieces (pun intended) over a piece of plastic and a plastic potato, no less, there is something important to be learned from Hasbro’s decision.

What we should be focusing on is not the sideshow created by those who are unsettled by the gender neutering of a plastic potato. What we should be thinking about is this question: Why would a multi-billion dollar company decide to change the name of one of its most popular brands?

Hasbro is a highly successful and somewhat conservative company. They nurture their brands over decades and make incremental changes that keep children engaged. They have a research department and acquire studies that tell them what is current with children and their parents.

Hasbro, therefore, made an informed decision. They changed the brand name from Mr. Potato Head to Potato Head because it was good for business. Although the company may have an altruistic streak, they are not going to make such dramatic change without considering their shareholders. Bottom line, Hasbro changed the name because they knew they would sell more.

Keep in mind that the name Mr. Potato Head was part of a pantheon of mid-20th century products that carried the Mr. moniker: Mr. Clean, Mr. Pibb, Mr. Bubble, Mr. Goodbar, and Mister Coffee. The use of Mr. was, like much of what went on in the post-World War II years, male oriented.

We are now, of course, living in a 21st century, in which names like “Mr”. on a plastic potato and “Uncle” in a box of rice convey messages that no longer fit with today’s sensibilities. Because of that, by changing the wording of the Mr. Potato Head brand, Hasbro wanted to engage little girls in a play format whose name is inclusive

Some people may or may not be comfortable with many of today’s profound cultural changes. No matter how any one person may feel, Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima are gone. The Mr. in Mr. Potato Head is too. Welcome to the 21st century.

2 thoughts

  1. ‘The potatohead’ has not conjured this much discussion in over a decade as such the move was successful and will drive a significant increase in sales for the brand.
    At least in the short term.

  2. While I agree with what you said about the “Mr” moniker being outdated and from a different era. i think the overall reason was a little less altruistic and more about branding. While I’m sure they had plenty of discussions about gender identity in these meetings, I feel that the decision to change the name of the line to Potato Head family was a branding idea so that they can expand the brand. The specific Mr. Potato head still exists. Its the overall brand name that’s changing. And, having the overall brand name not just reflect one of the characters just makes sens as to where the line is going. In reality, the decision is less controversial than most are thinking.

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