Growing up in the Bronx meant that being a Yankees fan was a birthright (especially if you were Italian). Also, at the age of eight, my favorite drink was Yoo-hoo. Why are these two things related? Talk to anyone who loves the Yankees and grew up in the Bronx from the late 50s to the early 60s and ask him or her: Why did you drink Yoo-hoo?
The answer, of course, is Yogi Berra. Yogi, a famous catcher for the Yankees, joined Yoo-hoo in 1955 as a spokesperson for the drink during a time of poor sales, later being promoted to a vice president of the company. It was his idea to brand the drink with his beloved Yankees, convincing his teammates to help him endorse the drink, with several of the players from the era having thumbnails of their pictures on the bottle caps.
I recently was at a sports-themed flea market and saw some of the caps for sale for seven to ten dollars each. (The Yogi cap was ten.) I often wonder how much marketing credit Yogi received. Was Yogi ahead of his time? Would you want Yogi in your social media groups for business?
Since then, Yoo-hoo has seemed to know how to connect with younger audiences. When I asked a twenty-something at Vanguard Direct for his first memory of a Yoo-hoo advertisement, he recalled seeing Yoo-hoo product placement in popular 90s sitcoms like Friends. As a fan of the particular character who consumed the drink, he was inspired to buy the drink to be more like that character.
Whatever the advertising tactic of Yoo-hoo is, it’s strong enough to take root in children at a young age. Starting with Yogi, Yoo-hoo has had a knack of making strong connections that will be long remembered, allowing them to stay with us as consumers.
As a vice president at Vanguard Direct, I insisted that Yoo-hoo be put in our vending machine. Even my clients ask, “Why Yoo-hoo?” I tell them to move to the Bronx in 1967! I still drink Yoo-hoo at 64 and smile when I hold the can. Because as Yogi, or any good marketer would tell you, “It’s not over till it’s over!”
Author: Joe Corbo