Children of the 1980’s were perhaps the first generation to truly experience a full-on marketing blitz. From Saturday morning cartoons taking lengthy commercial breaks to hawk McDonalds and Rainbow Brite, to lunch boxes and Trapper Keepers declaring our allegiance to such important trends as Atari, Gremlins and Q-Bert, adults who survived this campy era are flooded with memories of strategic branding.
For little boys of the 1980’s, The Cold War, Iran-Contra, and Muammar Gaddafi were terms that might have been overheard from the mouths of their parents, but these conflicts, unbeknownst to the energetic lads, played out in the then-WWF ring. Professional wrestling was at its highest historical peak, and Hulkamania was a worldwide phenomenon, according to the twelve- and- under set. A certified marketing machine, the World Wrestling Federation, since changed to WWE, was literally everywhere. Launched alongside Mtv, the product was on the small screen, toy store shelves (remember those immovable, brick rubber action figures?), cartoons, cinema, backpacks, trading cards, candy, clothing…and on and on. In a bizarre cross promotion, a G.I. Joe character, Sergeant Slaughter, became a real life, in-the-flesh wrestler. Or maybe vice versa.
And then…the inevitable. The machine found a way for fanatics to digest their product, literally.
In the freezers of ice cream trucks and gas stations, the WWF Superstar Ice Cream Bar became a cult classic. With shortbread on one side, chocolate cookie on the other and ice cream in between, the frozen confection on- a- stick came with a hook; the cartoonish image of a wrestler, deliciously branded onto the side. When wrestling was real and the Rubik’s Cube was fashionable, this was to little boys what the supposed image of a religious idol, miraculously burnt into the side of a piece of toast, is to people who, well…enjoy that sort of thing.
The only downside? It was all a game of chance. Anything less than a Hulk Hogan bar sent expectations crumbling to the mat. Could it be that the makers knew this, and the whole thing was a devious plot to force the fan base to consume more until that elusive Hulkster bar was found? Sounds like a plot only Bobby “The Brain” Heenan could concoct.