As Domino’s Noid returns, there’s an appetite for more brand mascots
The Noid is back as a nemesis mascot for Domino’s Pizza and, if brands listen to what consumers want, it may soon have some company from other nostalgic characters.
A new Ad Age-Harris Poll survey found that 79% of American adults enjoy seeing brands use mascots. In the poll, 32% of respondents said they agreed that using mascots is an outdated practice, while 68% disagreed. Across all age groups, 69% of both men and women said they prefer brand mascots that were popular when they were children compared to the newer ones used today. Even among 18-to-34-year-olds—the youngest group surveyed—67% felt that way.
While the Noid’s return sparked memories for some, it’s less well known than some other mascots in the food industry.
According to the poll, 41% of respondents said they were aware of the Noid. That means Domino’s has 59% of the population to begin to annoy — um, gain attention from — with its red-suited villain who is out to thwart pizza deliveries. Gen Xers (52%) were the most likely to recall the Noid, followed by millennials (46%). Other mascots with higher recognition included Planters' Mr. Peanut (89%) and McDonald’s Hamburglar (84%). Mr. Peanut has been prominently featured in that brand’s marketing in recent years, while the Golden Arches hasn’t relied on the Hamburglar or its other characters for quite some time.
Respondents were asked which other retired brand mascots, if any, would they be interested in seeing return. Many people mentioned mascots that are still being used, perhaps suggesting that brands should consider making the appearance of characters more prominent in their marketing. The most popular response was Frosted Flakes’ Tony the Tiger.
Other mascots still in use and mentioned by multiple respondents as ones they’d like to see return included Green Giant’s Jolly Green Giant, Kool-Aid’s Kool-Aid man, the Lucky Charms leprechaun and the Pillsbury Doughboy.
“Some incredible buzz”
The poll, conducted online from April 27 to April 29 among 1,000 U.S. adults, was taken shortly after the Noid’s return was announced on April 26. So far, only 24% of respondents were aware that the character was back in Domino’s advertising. The pizza chain is using the character in a new campaign that showcases the brand’s autonomous delivery test with Nuro.
Domino’s CEO Ritch Allison plugged the character’s return during an earnings call on Thursday, telling Wall Street analysts that the company "brought back our old nemesis, the Noid, in this ad campaign, and it is already generating some incredible buzz around the Domino’s brand.”
Whether or not they know the Noid, plenty of people know Domino's. The leading pizza chain's first-quarter U.S. same-store sales rose 13.4%, marking the 40th consecutive quarter of growth in sales at longstanding locations.
The decision to bring back the Noid had to be considered while weighing the risk that it could bring attention to a 1989 incident in which a man with the last name Noid took two Domino’s employees hostage. The story drew headlines then, but that was before the constant news cycle of social media—and according to the poll, most people don't remember it today. Just 14% of respondents, including 27% of millennials, said they were aware of that backstory. The man, Kenneth Lamar Noid, died by suicide in 1995.
In the aftermath of that incident, Domino’s had cut back on featuring the Noid, though the character did resurface from time to time before its major return this week.
In the Ad Age-Harris Poll survey, some other retired mascots were mentioned by a wide range of respondents as others they’d like to see return. People ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, for example, said they’d like to see the California Raisins and Frito’s Frito Bandito return. It's doubtful the chip brand would even consider a Bandito comeback, however, given that it drew criticism from Mexican-American advocacy groups in the late 1960s. The mascot was discontinued three years after the complaints came in 1968 from groups including the National Mexican-American Anti-Defamation Committee, which voiced conerns about it playing on stereotypes, according to this 2019 account from Fox Business.
Also of note, multiple people said they would like to see Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben return. Both of those brands were overhauled over the last year amid broader calls for racial justice. PepsiCo’s Quaker unit is renaming the Aunt Jemima line under the brand Pearl Milling Company, while the Mars brand Uncle Ben’s is now Ben’s Original.