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THE TIPPLING POINT | Hamm's, the Beer With a Bear Story

In 1999, Hamm’s bear was nominated as one of the best ad campaigns in 100 years by Advertising Age Magazine. In 2005, a mascot of the legendary animal was set up in St Paul, Minnesota.

Manu Remakant |

Updated:April 9, 2018, 12:59 PM IST
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THE TIPPLING POINT | Hamm's, the Beer With a Bear Story
(Image: @HammsTheBeer)
News18 Tippling Point Tired of the antics of a character, a creator finally decides one evening to let go, push his creation off a ledge and leave.

So in the next story, he sits with his fictional villain, plots a trap, and pulls it off with such ease that only authors can do, dirty with characters they create. Together they killed the hero. Who can question an author! Who could stand in his way!

Sherlock Holmes, 221 B Baker Street.

That was not a man or an address, readers could easily forget as the writer Arthur Conan Doyle thought, however fictitious they are. They could not reason with the logic of the writer’s sudden decision to take the breath out of Holmes. Soon, Conan Doyle’s mailbox was bombarded with hate mails and threats. Bring back our hero or die! Public pressure built up to such a level that Doyle was forced to breathe life once again into the late hero, making him get back to the street of action in the following story.

It was a triumph of character over the author.

In the 1950s the legendary story of the great detective found resonance in a place named Minnesota in US. Only this time, the character was not a human. It was a bear. You heard it right, a bear!

The beast started out its life as a cartoon mascot in 1952, screaming out to the television audience the virtuousness and purity of a beer, produced by Theodore Hamm Brewing company. Pretty soon Hamm’s got itself intricately tied to the animal it created.

Here’s the long story:

“From the Land of Sky Blue Waters,
From the land of pines, lofty balsam,
Comes the beer refreshing,
Hamm’s the beer refreshing.”

A menagerie of cute little animals – beavers, squirrels, and others – pranced and barrel-rolled around the pastoral setting of Minnesota to that jingle emphasising the purity of its sky, water and of course a beer. For the viewers of the 50s, the experience was something new and magical, as animated beavers beat their tails in abandon to the tom-tom beats in the jungle, etching in their minds a mythical land of sky blue waters where all things came pure.

But, something was still wanting.

It was Cleo Hovel of the advertising company who asked his business acquaintance, Ray Tollefsen to draw a bear for the promotion of the beer. Ray roughed it out on paper, hardly knowing, a legend had just flown off his pencil, taking life, a life that would outlive him, the creator, and even the company by its fame. Cleo liked what Ray drew. What remained now was to create some wonderful and humorous storylines to take the character deep into the hearts of viewers.

In the second ad in 1952, the bear was introduced. It struck a chord.

Sascha, as the beast was known in the brewery, danced, tripped and fell, picked his elaborate mass up, evoking peals of laughter across the country.

Perhaps it was those perfect scripts behind the Hamm’s ads that hit the bull’s eye. There was always a sense of progress, a story on the go, a march forward to a conclusion that satiated the viewers. People eagerly waited for the next production, while sipping on what the bear had asked them to, that ‘refreshing drink from Northland, the land of sky blue waters, land of pines and lofty balsam.

Sales skyrocketed.

But as the company changed hands over the years a few entrepreneurs down the line tried to rip the bottle away from the furry animal, trying to lay him off after his meritorious service. They all had their hands burned. But luckily they were wise enough to know the surefire method to bring back sales – get the hero once again into the service.

In 1999, Hamm’s bear was nominated as one of the best ad campaigns in 100 years by Advertising Age Magazine. In 2005, a mascot of the legendary animal was set up in St Paul, Minnesota.

Hamm’s cannot unleash itself from what they call a bear hug.


(Manu Remakant is a freelance writer who also runs a video blog — A Cup of Kavitha — introducing world poetry to Malayalees. Views expressed here are personal)

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| Edited by: Puja Menon
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