After being together for 60 years, Mike and Ike, the mustachioed mascots for the chewy, fruit-flavored candy made by Just Born of Bethlehem, are going their separate ways.
This month, Just Born started promoting the breakup on Mike and Ike’s Facebook page in an unusual and tongue-in-cheek way.
This ad campaign seems to be off to a good start, compared to others.
The New York Times has written one story about it so far. And “Mike and Ike Head for Gay Divorce” is the headline on the Huffington Post website.
No matter what kind of relationship Mike and Ike had, it couldn’t have been legal in Pennsylvania, which hasn’t legalized same-sex marriages yet.
Mike and Ike were first sold in 1940. Their wrappers say “the original fruits” and say that the candy is made from real fruit. When Mike and Ike first got together, they both had mustaches. Later, Mike changed to a clean-shaven look (even though it accentuated his chubby cheeks).
On the Mike and Ike Facebook page, it says:
“Yes it’s true. We should have known what would happen. Mike and Ike broke up because they had different ideas about how to make Mike and Ike candy. They left the building. We never thought this would happen… Mike has decided to try to make a living as a musician. Ike wants to become a painter.”
Just Born’s marketing manager, Donald Houston, said that Facebook is a great way to reach teenagers, who are the candy company’s target market.
He said, “That’s where they are.” “It gives us the chance to talk back and forth. They can say something.”
Just Born is also using other electronic media in its campaign, which is set to last for a year. The Facebook page has a link to a blog with video comments from famous people like teen pop singer Greyson Chance and “The Middle” star Eden Sher. In one video, NBA player Lamar Odom says, “I was devastated when I heard the news.”
At the same time, packages of Mike and Ike with one or the other name blacked out with what looks like a felt-tip marker are making their way to stores. For the summer, a similar billboard campaign is planned.
Sam Born, a Russian immigrant, opened the first Just Born store in New York in 1923. In 1932, he moved the store to Bethlehem. The privately owned company is run by Ross Born and David N. Shaffer, who are also co-presidents. The company makes Peeps, Hot Tamales, and Teanee Beanie Gourmet jelly beans.
During the first 20 years of Mike and Ike, there were no pictures of the icons on the boxes. Their coming out happened in the 1960s when the counterculture was gaining popularity.
Then, in the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan led a popular conservative movement to the forefront, Mike and Ike all of a sudden changed into characters that looked a bit like M&Ms and were vaguely human-like.
In 2004, these characters were finally taken off the package. The U.S. was fighting wars on two continents, and the country’s mood had become serious, maybe too serious for Mike and Ike. In any case, since then, consumers have had to make up their own ideas about who the couple is.
Matt Pye, the vice president of marketing for Just Born, says that the company has no plans to bring back any of the different versions of Mike and Ike right now.
When asked about rumors about the characters’ sexuality, Pye said, “Really, we have nothing to say about that.”
He said, “These guys are my best friends, and work together to make candy.” “It’s fine that other people have chosen to see it differently.”
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