Remember the phrase "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"? Now do you recall what product it was originally used to sell? Did you know that the old computer game Sopwith was a multiplayer game used to showcase a networking program?
That's what this trope is, when a slogan, phrase, mascot, or showcase becomes more famous or even outlasts the product it was created for.
Slogans, Phrases, and Jingles:
- "Don't mess with Texas" is from an anti-littering campaign.
- "Mamma-mia, that's-a-spicy meatball!" is from an Alka-Seltzer ad masquerading as a pasta sauce ad.
- "I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up!"- used in an advert for Life Alert, a medical alarm company. It actually began with a similar product named LifeCall, and Life Alert started using that phrase after LifeCall went under.
- "I'm not a doctor, ...But I Play One on TV." Many people remember the line. They may even vaguely remember it was for some sort of medicine. Almost no one remembers which medicine (Vicks Cough Syrup).
- "Crispy Critters" has become a part of the (American) English vernacular, meaning something (or someone) that's been burned to a crisp. You could bomb a football stadium and not hit twenty people who remember Crispy Critters cereal (a short-lived animal cracker-like concotion).
- Where's the Beef?. Such a simple ad would never fly at the Super Bowl nowadays, but back when the "Fluffy Bun" ad aired, it was a breakaway success, the little old lady who delivered the line became a minor celebrity, and the line became symbolic of something that had no "meat" to it, whether figuratively or literally; it even got mentioned in the 1984 US Presidential campaign. Now, which restaurant chain was it an ad for? (Wendy's.)
- The line "So round! So firm! So fully packed! So free and easy on the draw!" was a slogan from radio ads for Lucky Strike cigarettes back in the '40's, but it then got picked up by radio personalities and Looney Tunes characters like Pepé Le Pew for describing members of the fairer sex. Most Looney Tunes fans today can tell it's a '40's cultural reference, but few would know what it's from.
- Coca-Cola's "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing," which was for four weeks in 1971 the #1 single in the U.K..
- The "Da Da Da" song by Trio may not have originated in a 1990s Volkswagen ad, but that's certainly what popularized it in the U.S.
- The ad campaign / With these short poems / Was used at first / For shaving fo-am / Burma-Shave.
- "You got your X in my Y!" "You got your Y in my X!" for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (originally, it was chocolate and peanut butter).
- "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" (cue thunderstorm): The slogan has outlasted the product it was for (a butter substitute called Chiffon).
- "We've Only Just Begun" by the Carpenters came from a bank commercial that later was absorbed into Wells Fargo. The brother and sister duo saw the commercial and liked the melody so much that they contacted the composer to ask if he had a full-length version. He didn't, but he quickly composed one for them.
- A hushed delivery of "We've secretly replaced their X with Y. Lets' see if they can tell the difference." Originally for Folger's Coffee Crystals, it's become the go-to line whenever a Bait-and-Switch is pulled on somebody.
- "It's X o'clock, do you know where your children are?" was originally a PSA played on late night TV to warn parents of the dangers of teenage drinking. Now it's more likely to be a joke said in the middle of the day.
- In Australia, the phrase "NOT! HAPPY! JAN!!" from an ad for the Yellow Pages phone directory has become a part of the vernacular as an expression of frustration or annoyance.
- Rowlf the Dog, the first wildly popular Muppet (at first outshining Kermit), began as an advertisement for dog food (Purina Dog Chow).
- Pets.com: Their hand puppet's appeal infamously outlasted the lifespan of their company (which admittedly wasn't that long to begin with) and now shills for cheap car loans. He's also no longer voiced his original puppeteer, comedian Michael Ian Black, who has found better things to do with his time.
- The ITV Digital Monkey has also outlived its original creators' short life, and now advertises PG Tips tea. It was said (possibly not seriously) that when ITV Digital shut down, Monkey was one of the most valuable of their few remaining assets.
- Cavemen, the ABC TV Series, derived from the GEICO Cavemen advertisements. Needless to say, it didn't translate well to the sitcom format and not only failed critically, but was marred by the 2007 writers' strike and failed to last a full season.
- Five years before Cavemen, Baby Bob was a sitcom based on Baby Bob, a baby who talked like a 40 year old in ads for freeinternet.com (now defunct) and later Quiznos.
- Yo! Noid, created during Domino's "Avoid the Noid" ad campaign, was a heavily localized version of a Japanese game, Masked Ninja Hanamaru, which had absolutely nothing to do with Domino's Pizza (or pizza in general, for that matter).
- Cool Spot, a platformer based on a fairly successful series of 7-UP commercials in which anthropomorphized red spots from cans would run around while their owner is asleep.
- On a similar note, Fido Dido, another character from the same company, went through this, appearing in the bumpers of CBS' Saturday Morning Cartoon block and getting his own comic strip and books.
- M.C. Kids
- The noted Jim Varney character Ernest P. Worrell was originally created as an all-purpose advertising mascot in Nashville. Then he went to camp and saved Christmas, and people took notice.
- Compare the Meerkat - an advert for an insurance price comparison website (Compare The Market) in which a meerkat tycoon, Aleksandr Orlov, reminds viewers not to confuse it with his website. Aleksandr's "autobiography" was a bestseller.
- The Dulux mascot, an Old English Sheepdog, has been rumoured to sell more Dulux Dogs than Dulux Paints.
- The California Raisins were originally made as characters in a Sun Maid commercial, but they became so popular that they spawned oodles of merchandise and tie-ins, including a video game, a TV special and a Saturday Morning Cartoon about them.
- The titular character of Di Gi Charat was originally the mascot for Gamers, a Japanese store selling merchandise aimed at otaku, and the first series prominently featured the store. It became so popular that the show, as well as the character herself, broke away from its' advertising origins.
- C.W. McCall was a truck driver in commercials for Old Home Bread in the early 1970s whose flirty adventures with a truck-stop waitress named Mavis were told through a talk-singing Country Rap. A single based on the soundtrack was so successful in the markets where the bread was sold that the advertising executive who sang in the commercials, Bill Fries, assumed the C.W. McCall persona and (with the help of Chip Davis, who wrote the music and later formed Mannheim Steamroller) had a real-life musical career capped by the smash hit "Convoy."
- The characters in Bump in the Night were originally created for promos for ABC's Saturday Morning Cartoon block in 1993.
- Sopwith: Created to demonstrate "Imagenet", a proprietary networking system by BMB Compuscience. Became a commercially successful product in its own right; Imagenet itself, not so much.
- Pixar, after spinning off from Lucasfilm, spent time as a hardware company selling the "Pixar Image Computer." Their first shorts were just demos, but they far outshone anything else done with computers at the time. When the computer didn't sell well, they became Pixar Animation Studios, and the rest is history. note
- The PlayStation 2 game Fanta Vision was originally developed as a tech demo to showcase the capabilities of the new hardware, but proved to be popular enough that a consumer version was released as a reasonably successful launch title for the system.
- Colonel Harlan Sanders turned his unsuccessful gas station into restaurant after motorists became interested in the smell of his wife's cooking. Though the restaurant failed, he got into business selling pressure fryers, frying chicken to show them off. People didn't want the pressure fryers, but they did like his chicken, and thus, Kentucky Fried Chicken was born.
- Luigi's Mansion was originally just a tech demo for the GameCube, but was eventually made into a game.
- One of the earliest internet memes was the Dancing Baby. Originally just a demo for a piece of animation software, the clip itself became wildly popular, especially after it appeared on the TV series Ally McBeal as a manifestation of the title character's fear that she was running out of time to have a baby before menopause.
- Knott's Berry Farm was originally a berry stand beside a family farm. After the berry stand grew into a popular restaurant, the owners began building a "ghost town" and other attractions to amuse customers while they waited for a table. As the attractions blossomed into an amusement park, the family began charging admission. The park now rivals nearby Disneyland and has completely overwhelmed the original restaurant, which is still there right outside the front gate.
- Similarly, Kennywood Amusement Park in Pittsburgh began as a picnic area, where eventually a trolley rail route was laid out nearby. A small park was built next to the trolley station to entertain kids until the trolley arrived. As the park got bigger and bigger and more popular, and the trolley station was dismantled, the amusement park became one of the most renowned parks in Mideastern America.
- Chessington World of Adventures in London was originally a small side-attraction to Chessington Zoo. The zoo is still there, but now it's a side-attraction to the theme park.
- The bizarre comic strip Robotman and Monty started out as Robotman and was made to promote a children's doll.
- Marvel Comics's Rom Spaceknight by Bill Mantlo was a licensed comic based on a toy. The toy was a commercial failure, but the comic was successful and lasted for years. Unfortunately, ROM himself and all the other elements which came directly from the toyline are now in licensing limbo. The supporting details and setting that Marvel created themselves for his series, however, still appear in other Marvel works.
- The Micronauts comic (also by Mantlo) also outlasted the toy line that inspired it by several years. The character Bug, very loosely based on the Galactic Warrior action figure, is still around in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy title, since he's different enough from the toy that inspired him that Marvel can claim to own him outright.
- In 1991, there was a dancing doll called My Pretty Ballerina. The doll was only around for a year or so and then discontinued. However, a children's picture book, Saturday Is Ballet Day, about a pair of friends (a black girl and a white girl) learning to ballet dance, was published to merchandise it. The book is charming, and stayed continuously in print for over two decades, complete with the doll's logo on the cover.
- Hi-C's "Ecto-Cooler" flavor was produced to promote the TV series The Real Ghostbusters. The stuff tasted good, and Hi-C kept producing it for years after the show ended, complete with Slimer on the label. They eventually removed him and changed the name to Shoutin' Orange Tangergreen, then Crazy Citrus Cooler, note before discontinuing the flavor completely in 2007 and then briefly bringing it back nine years later as a tie-in for the rebooted film.