EDEN PRAIRIE, Minnesota – Care and attention to the important identity elements of a historic brand can make the difference between a moderately successful brand using its history as a crutch, and long-term successful brand with a future.
The case of Mr. Bubble, owned by The Village Company, is the perfect example of wise brand stewardship. Minnesota’s The Village Company rescued Mr. Bubble after the bankruptcy of Ascendia Brands. In the last dozen or so years, Village Company has achieved a turnaround.
Mr. Bubble dates from 1961, when Harold Schafer of the Gold Seal Company of North Dakota invented the soap. It passed through a number of owners, including Airwick and Playtex. In 2005, Ascendia purchased an assortment of historic health and beauty products, including Mr. Bubble, Calgon, Baby Magic, Ogilvie, Dorothy Gray and Binaca. After Ascendia’s bankruptcy, The Village Company purchased Mr. Bubble, and invested in marketing, production and new products, all complementing Village’s other soap and bath products. By 2009, Village Company was approaching new websites like my BrandlandUSA.com with samples and story ideas.
Square Bottle Echoes Mr. Bubble Box
Mr. Bubble is still one of the main brands of Village Company, which also include Village Naturals Therapy, HALLU, Dep, and Soft & Dri. Mr. Bubble is now secure in its place in the pantheon of great American brands. A recent marker of the success is a flagship square packaging, with the original scent and pink color.
To the average consumer, this would seem to be just a nice package, but to look at the design carefully is to see how Mr. Bubble has become even more relevant, all the while echoing its story.
The square shape hearkens to the early days of Mr. Bubble, when the product was associated with powder, in a box. But this version improves on the past, as with a box, and kids in the bath, the cardboard got wet.
Recent extensions have also included Mr. Bubble Bath Potion and Magic Bath Crackles, adding science experiments and STEM to the whole cleanup routine.
The new square bottle does a number of things:
- The design is clear, and filled out. While it is not minimalist, it is not cluttered.
- The company adheres to the original dimensions and typography of the Mr. Bubble type logo. While there have been certain tweaks to the logo over the decades, the consumer would never know that there had been a change.
- The information on the bottle pushes notions of health and economy, including stressing that it is hypoallergenic, tear free and paraben free.
Not Enough American Babies
The company’s only challenge is demographic. A baby bust in recent years means there are fewer babies in tubs. In the tens of thousands. That means lost sales. Covid was supposed to be a boon to pregnancies and home life, but as the scare has passed, birth rates are way down. Always, Mr. Bubble has been just as popular with parents as with children. The nightly bath can sometimes be tiring for parents. Having a trick to get kids to safely enjoy the tub, sitting down, can make the parent’s job so much easier. The ritual is also good for the mental health of children, as the consistent bedtime bath, and early bedtime, help sleep patterns in an era of electronic babysitters.
The work of the Institute for Family Studies in Charlottesville might be the answer for Mr. Bubble. The non-partisian research organization associated with University of Virginia works tirelessly to support the ideals of good families, and child rearing in general. They are one of the few organizations that understand the birth-rate problem across all demographic groups.
A Reel of Mr. Bubble Ads
Through the decades, the brand has had a long line of commercials, including animated versions. An unfortunate problem for the brand in the 1980s was the banning of children’s advertising. The destructive activism of the late Peggy Charren killed Saturday morning advertising.
Below, some historic commercials of Mr. Bubble. In the 1980s, Ellen Walter wrote the jingle “My name is Mr. Bubble. Let me show you tubs of fun.” The Bubbleaires also appeared; they had the appearance of Oompa Loompas, or perhaps exploding Violet Beauregard, in Willy Wonka. Other jingles and memorable phrases include:
- “My name is Mr. Bubble. And you can watch me pop.”
- “Mr. Bubble in the tubble. He’ll get you squeaky clean. Its as fun as getting dirty.”
- “Give Dirty Bert alot of trouble.”
One of the voice overs for commercials, viewable below, includes, perhaps, Casey Kasem:
Here, a recent YouTube video by the company.