Previously known as the “Fruit Guys,” two of the four characters are now women.
Fruit of the Loom introduced the “Fruit Guys,” four actors dressed up as an apple, a bunch of red grapes, a bunch of green grapes, and a leafy shrub, in 1975, and the brand mascots would appear in commercials for decades.
Particularly memorable is a 1978 spot featuring the actor Loretta Tupper, then in her seventies, who adoringly holds up a pair of white briefs and says, “Girls, I bought a lot of underwear for my men, and years ago, I picked Fruit of the Loom,” at which point all four of the characters magically appear in her living room.
The characters evolved, reflecting the evolution of television advertising itself, and instead of pitching particular attributes of the brand’s underwear and casual clothing, the characters in the early aughts were featured in a music video spoof reminiscent of Coldplay, moodily singing about underwear.
Then, in 2011, as if they were overripe and fruit flies were hovering over them, the Fruit Guys were tossed on marketing’s compost heap, and Fruit of the Loom stopped featuring them in advertising.
Now they’re back—but with some key updates. First, they’re no longer Fruit Guys: Two of the four characters—the bunches of red and green grapes—are depicted by women. The brand now calls them Fruit People. And rather than being on TV, they’re exclusively on social media—they’ll debut on TikTok before also appearing on Instagram Reels.
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Grape expectations: Bryse Yonts, director of brand communications for Fruit of the Loom, told Retail Brew the content featuring the new characters, which begins rolling out today (September 26), was partly inspired by The Office, and it’s set in Fruit of the Loom’s headquarters, where a new character, the Chief TikToker, tries to rally the characters to create viral content.
The content was produced by Austin-based GSD&M with help from Hungry Man; LI Johnson directed.
The fact that younger TikTokers may not remember the mascots is not an issue, because this isn’t about nostalgia, according to the brand.
Even for people who “may have no recollection of” the characters, “it is a definitive way for us to connect with our brand,” Yonts told Retail Brew. “There’s no other competitor that can go out with a group of fruit-themed characters. That’s equity for us, regardless if they knew who they were in the past.”
While the first iteration of the characters, in keeping with the last century’s marketing conventions, highlighted durable elastic waistbands, soft fabric, and other product attributes, today’s characters are not overtly selling products but rather trying to entertain and build affinity with consumers.
“We’re always looking to really brighten our consumers’ day, and if we can put out funny and compelling content, regardless of their history with [the characters], then it’s a win for the brand,” Yonts said. It’s “really about just engaging with and building relationships with prior and new consumers.”
Brief case: It is not, to be sure, Fruit of the Loom’s first rodeo when it comes to social media.
In a 2013 LinkedIn promotion called Fresh Gigs, 25,000 users who’d changed jobs or gained employment received a LinkedIn message from Fruit of the Loom offering them a congratulatory free pair of underwear.
“We’re hooking you up with a complimentary pair of Fruit of the Loom,” the message read. “Because great-fitting underwear can help you start your workday in a great mood.”