'Oh, Yeah!' Kool-Aid Man Gets a High-Tech Makeover

(Image credit: Kool-Aid)

Formerly just a guy in a suit, the Kool-Aid man is now a CGI-generated, colorful personality with a new voice.

His high-tech makeover is part of Kool-Aid's new campaign, "Smile. It's Kool-Aid," launching today. The campaign includes a new liquid drink mix, a Facebook page, interactive website and mobile app.

The animated pitcher-man hasn't gotten a major update since 2000.

"We are in the process in evolving our portfolio … and saw it as a great opportunity to evolve our lovable icon to a more contemporary character," says Erica Rendall, senior brand manager at Kraft.

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The Kool-Aid man first appeared in 1954, and has had several makeovers and updates through the years. This year, people are getting a glimpse into his life, through television and print ads. The ads are targeted at mothers, who often decide what kids eat in the house.

In tandem with the Kool-Aid man's makeover, a sugar-free liquid drink mix has been added to the product lineup. The pocket-size bottles are easy to travel with and add flavor to water without the calories.

Like its brand MiO, Kraft is hoping to have success with the portable liquid drink mixes.

"We certainly have been very happy with the response for MiO," says Rendall.

A mobile app is set to launch in June - users will be able to post and share their own photos that have been "photo-bombed" with images of the Kool-Aid Man.

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"The challenge for somebody like Kool-Aid is that you have to remain relevant in the world," says Tim Calkins, clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.

With older brands, companies look for ways to keep things interesting and make it a character that people can connect and engage with.

"There's so much competition in the world of beverage it's really hard to hold your spot in the mind of the customer," he says.

Mike & Ike, a candy introduced by Just Born in the '40s, tripled its social media traffic after it launched an elaborate campaign saying that the legendary pair had split up. In celebration of its 100th birthday, Oreo celebrated with new packaging, a birthday cake flavor and a creative social media campaign.

"There's a mixed track record on things like this. Sometimes brands do manage something that really engages people … the challenge here is to do it where it's got to be interesting enough for people to follow it," says Calkins.