The 90s Apple Jacks Brand: We Just Like It, So Go To Hell.

My TV said 90s Apple Jacks Fans were Jerks

I still imagine Apple Jacks’ eaters as untrustworthy assholes all because of 90s Apple Jacks commercials. These are the dudes who still post black and white photos of their football playing days from high school on Facebook. Thank you, I really did want to relive that game where you had four sacks and an interception at Ben Lippen.

I have nothing against Apple Jacks per se; it is a crunchy, super-sweet cereal. If you are into dessert for breakfast, Apple Jacks will do the job. And bonus, any leftover milk will be so sweet it’d give the Nesquick Bunny diarrhea.

My beef was always with the Saturday morning advertising that assumed we all wanted to join a nasty little cereal cult.

Apple Jacks’ almost 30-year-old TV commercials oozed the stereotypical Gen X cynicism. These weren’t likable kids eating breakfast, they were little monsters who need to be reminded that corporal punishment was still considered ok in the 90s.

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That 90s Bully Chic

The 90s… back when Cross Colours were so cool and being smart or different was so uncool (unless you had a dragon, and yes, I know that’s an 80s movie, but it aired relentlessly on HBO in the 90s). 

Were we really as bad as the Apple Jacks commercials made us out to be? Were we Apple Jerks?

I remember walking home trailed by at least 7 or so neighborhood bullies who would throw rocks or insults, and if they caught up to me, they would throw me around a little. Maybe they all were eating Apple Jacks for breakfast.

It should be said that I experienced a cornucopia of different types of pummeling in my schooling career. There were “blanket parties,” school sanctioned paddling, and everyday fistfights. My getting beat up quite often was never Apple Jacks fault.

The Audience Defines Your Brand

Brands today are learning they can’t trail children home from school, throwing rocks and shouting slogans. They can no longer “define their identities” by creating the story they believe “their audiences want to consume.” Customers define the brand. 

This is honestly fortunate for all, as companies can stop making disastrous assumptions about their customers and creating messaging that annoys the shit out of us. 

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Apple Jacks commercials from the 90s seemingly made the assumption that we would clique up and heap derision on cereal-incorrect boneheads. I honestly just wanted to get back to Batman or the Disney spoof, Darkwing Duck

Was the Brand, Confidence?

Those ridiculous self-assured tweens telling the commercial antagonists that they like Apple Jacks, even though they can’t explain why. “We just do,” and although the commercial usually ends at that point, I can imagine the next line being, “so leave me alone” or “just go to hell, already.” 

There was Camp Leewood where rainy days were soooo dull that you had to smuggle in cereal, milk, and spoons for something interesting to do (I doubt this message would survive ridicule in our more health-conscious times).

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And look, we have our first #okboomer sightings, from a time when the # symbol was either considered the “pound symbol,” “number symbol,” or the thing you played Tic-Tac-Toe in (we didn’t have Xboxes, we actually played Tic-Tac-Toe on purpose).

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So so uncool dads wander into the commercial and dare to question why their sons or daughters and their shit friends are eating Apple Jacks. Our cereal-eating heroes have the answer; just because it doesn’t taste like apples doesn’t mean we can’t love them. And just because you want us studying or doing chores, go to hell, we are eating breakfast.

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Dads can be Cool, Right?

If the dads rocking their bulky New Balances and Filas were so uncool, how is it they sparked the current “ugly sneaker” revolution? Today, influencers, celebs, and models are embracing “the ‘ugliness’ of oversize sneakers that many have referred to as ‘dad shoes.'” 

Could it be that the dads were equal parts uncool yet wore shoes that looked great to the fashionably correct in the 2010s, enough to spark a trend?  Yeah, that strikes me as the more plausible answer.

And then companies listened, giving them a slew of ugly “dad shoes” to rock at their fave cafes and trendy toast joints (I actually eat here, too).

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Brands of Yore Didn’t Have to Worry About Instagram

Brand definitions of today are the measure of what the audiences think, and often that definition appears via social media. “It’s the Age of the Customer, the era of the Internet of Me.”

The good thing is that organizations now engage with prospects, customers, and the world at large in ways inconceivable a decade ago. The not-so-good is that organizations no longer control their brand identity as they once did.

Lisa Welchman
December 17, 2015

Brand names don’t have the same cache as when they ruled the television break or when they anchored the mall. Or even just because an athlete was endorsed by the brand (Sure, Nike is still huge, but I would argue they have been listening and delivering on their customer’s wishes for some time).

When I think of the uncool becoming cool, I’m thinking specifically of Champion Athletics. Outside of their NBA Jerseys in the 1990s, no would be caught dead rocking anything with their logo. I knew more than one person that would remove the C logo from their sweats.

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Burgundy Bitches

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Thanks to influence (large and small) on Instagram, you can now buy shirts with oversized Champion logos. They got huge (literally and figuratively or perhaps both figuratively but stay with me). In 2017 Champion flourished, up 33 percent in 2017, and 40 percent in 2018. You can buy Champion slides that are almost 100% logo. In the 90s, we wouldn’t have been caught dead in those.

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It doesn’t matter what my friends or I thought of the Champion brand in the 90s. Champion is suddenly Instagram-cool, streetwear, featuring collaborations with Vetements and Supreme who now are creating expensive “logo-repositories” out of the once conservative brand.

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Apple Jackism in Hindsight

If Apple Jacks had access to social media in the 90s, they might have been able to rely more on social media listening to craft their messaging. And not rely on an ad firm’s gut or a few shit kids they scrounged up at the mall for opinions or focus groups or whatever.

I may have been less annoyed with Apple Jacks… Yet, I still obsess over the commercials after 30 years. So, maybe the ads did their job? Let me know below.

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BTW if you really want to see charming Gen X cynicism, you should check out a few episodes of Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains it All.

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