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Silent spokesman

Little Man was early star of Co-op advertising
By Glen Liford 5/1/2018


Glen Liford, Editor
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Some time ago, Darrell Clark, manager of Southeastern Farmers

Cooperative, pitched an idea to me: How about showing some of the old photos from Co-op’s history in The Cooperator?

Though he might not realize it, Darrell had honed in on of the more

popular Internet trends. If you visit social media sites on “Throwback Thursday,” you don’t know what blasts from the past you may encounter. Big hair and

mullets from the ‘80s and other embarrassing high school photos abound.

While some of those pictures may be best left in the dusty albums from which they came, I think Darrell was onto something with his idea. We have a rich history in Co-op, and we are proud of our cooperative heritage. I especially love vintage advertising in its many forms. Take the photos of the Co-op advertising that appear with this column, for example.

Did you know that Co-op once had its own mascot? Throughout the photographic archives from the early 1960s, the Co-op “Little Man,” as he is affectionately known, appeared quite often in advertisements and in-store displays. And his presence was the driving force behind a popular billboard advertising campaign that dotted the state with Co-op ads during the era.

The whimsical cartoon character was shown engaged in many of the same routines as his fellow Co-op farmer-members and customers. In one scene, he is shown bouncing along in his pickup truck, which is stocked full of a multitude of useful Co-op products. In another, he entices a healthy group of hogs with a bag of Co-op Swine Feed. In still another, he extolls the virtues of Co-op Flow-45 Fertilizer from the seat of his favorite tractor. (It seems he preferred the red ones, or perhaps the artist chose the color simply for impact). Sometimes, he is all dressed up as if headed to town, but more often he wears overalls or jeans as if he’s ready for hard work. In nearly all, he’s smoking his distinctive pipe, which seems to lend him an air of sophistication and style.

Though he never reached the notoriety of, say, the Michelin Man, the AFLAC duck, the GEICO gecko, or the Energizer Bunny, he did add color and personality to the Co-op advertising efforts of the time. Though his origin is lost to history now, his image has earned him a place in Co-op’s past.

It’s not clear exactly when the Little Man disappeared from Co-op’s advertising efforts, but it seems as the 1970s took hold, his presence was no longer needed. For a little while, however, he had his 15 minutes of fame as the face of the Co-op brand. And his playful personality added humor and warmth to the product pitches of the day.

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This document copyright © 2019 by Tennessee Farmers Cooperative. All rights reserved. Legal Notice