Our Beloved Doughboy: Poppin’ Fresh

A well-known local figure has modestly enjoyed his fame for over 50 years with a grin and a giggle. Though he may be small, the Pillsbury Doughboy has become larger than life. The beloved brand icon has appeared in over 600 television commercials and on numerous consumer products. 

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Image from HHM Collections

The Pillsbury Doughboy was created by advertising agency Leo Burnett in 1965 for the Pillsbury Company. He was named Poppin’ Fresh because in the original television commercial he popped out of a can of fresh refrigerated dough. In those early ads, the Doughboy was brought to life with stop-action clay animation. Just a few years after Poppin’ Fresh made his debut on American television sets, he became a celebrity. Part of his success was due to his easily recognizable image, which remains the same to this day. Poppin’ Fresh has bright blue eyes and wears nothing but a white chef hat and neckerchief. Besides his appearance, his personality also made the Doughboy popular. He is always cheerful, considerate, and helpful. 

After they realized their tiny brand mascot had developed a large following, the Pillsbury Company began to introduce a line a of Doughboy products. In 1972, they launched a seven-inch vinyl Poppin’ Fresh doll which became highly sought-after.  Hennepin History Museum has three of those dolls in its collection which can be seen above. Eventually other members of the Doughboy’s family were introduced to the public and sold as toys as well. Poppin’ Fresh’s family consisted of a female companion, his grandparents, his two children, his uncle, and his pets. The museum has a stuffed toy version of his dog named Flapjack in its collection, as seen below. 

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Image from HHM Collections

Today, Poppin Fresh is one of America’s most recognized brand icons. In 2009 the Doughboy made his debut in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Poppin’ Fresh also still makes national TV appearances. He even shows up in other marketing campaigns from time to time. The difference is now, his image is computer generated, unlike his early commercials. However, there is one thing that will never change; if poked in the belly, the Doughboy will always giggle.

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Written by Alyssa Thiede

This publication was made possible in part by the people of Minnesota through a grant funded by an appropriation to the Minnesota Historical Society from the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Any views, findings, opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the State of Minnesota, the Minnesota Historical Society, or the Minnesota Historic Resources Advisory Committee. 

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