Friday, July 27, 2012

Lessons in Marketing: Maybe a Rat Shouldn't Sell Food to Children

We all have vague memories of going to Chuck E Cheese's as a child.  For some it was the truly terrible pizza that stuck with them, for others it was the poor selection of arcade games, or it was the creepy animatronic country music band, and I think most wondered why our parents took us there instead of, well, anywhere else (the answer of course is that Chuck E Cheese sells beer, but you didn't realize that as a kid). But whatever else stuck with you, I think we all still wonder who thought it was a good idea to make a rat the corporate mascot for a children's food chain.  Now to be fair, it was worse in the beginning:


The original Chuck E Cheese wasn't just a rat, but one who looked like some kind of unholy hybrid between a carnival barker, a used car salesman, and a pedophile.  And that's before you get to the one toothed monstrosity standing next to him.  Realizing that inspiring a generation of nightmares might not be the best way to bring in customers and so they evolved the rat into the mouse we all know today:


Sure he was still a rodent, and was totally "tubular" with a skateboard and other 90s gimmicks, but at least this Chuck E Cheese probably wouldn't haunt your dreams.  But time has gone by since then and Chuck E Cheese isn't doing so great anymore.  Now some might attribute this to the rise of home video game consoles replacing the appeal of arcades, the fact that you can get better pizza literally anywhere, or that the beer on sale leads to insane brawls between drunken parents at dueling birthday parties.  None of those people of course work at the corporate headquarters for Chuck E Cheese, because admitting that any of those things were the problem might involve having to radically alter the business or accept lower profits than were made in the past.  So instead they decided all they needed to do was update their mascot again:


Now I'm more than willing to consider the possibility that having a rodent as the mascot for children's food might be a poor business decision.  But the solution to that problem is not making a more realistic computer generated rodent.  Because outside of a Pixar movie nobody wants that.

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