This PhD thesis focuses upon fictitious people as food brand icons and their role and visual representation in contemporary international food packaging. It presents a new lens that focuses upon the visual reading of examples. Through comparative analysis of historical and contemporary British, Canadian and American examples primarily, ones that share comparable roles and visual characteristics, the study considers its hypothesis: a common visual formula operates across time and cultures in the creation and enduring omnipresence of icons that appear as real. It considers how shared visual codes provide identification of types and through such it presents a taxonomy of fictitious brand icons based upon their visual identity. The thesis considers, in relation to notions of storytelling, how examples read and are understood as real upon packaging and within wider commercial, social and cultural contexts. It considers how they relate to real people and roles through specific consideration of female home economist/ consumer advisor examples. The thesis focuses upon the American food brand icon Betty Crocker to consider how she may be understood as symbolic of a host of enigmatic examples.
The thesis advances the study of packaging, branding, culinary history and design history through its original focus and methodological approach which evidently have been neglected previously in academic study. It braids interdisciplinary perspectives to present an original understanding of brand icons and packaging. It determines brand icon as key term; to address the need for a clear definition and understanding. The study’s visual reading and taxonomy present an original framework that assert that visual codes create complex commercial and cultural fictitious personalities that can be deliberately elusive yet often appear as real. In particular, its interrogation of specific fictitious brand icons as enigmatic commercial home economists/consumer advisors confirms the existence of a commercial sisterhood; clone-types that appear to replicate their roles and appearance via visual codes that endure and appeal.
University of Brighton.