The Story Behind Jollibee's Iconic Mascot

employee holding jollibee bag with bee mascot on it
employee holding jollibee bag with bee mascot on it - Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

At Jollibee, the fast food chain known as "The McDonald's of the Philippines," a statue of a bee wearing a chef's hat and a red blazer greets you at the door. Its face appears on the drink cups, chicken buckets, and almost all the packaging. This bee is a big part of the Filipino chain's branding, and it has been since 1978 when the ice cream shop Magnolia started selling fast food. Founder Tony Tan decided to rebrand his growing business with a name that better represented the food offerings and went with Jollibee Yumburger. With this rebranding also came the now-iconic bee mascot.

Tan decided on the bee because of its symbolism. "The bee hops around and produces sweet things for life, and is happy even though it is busy," he told The Economist in 2002, explaining that the insect embodied Filipinos' work ethic.

The "Yumburger" part of the restaurant's name was eventually dropped — Jollibee sells more than just Yumburgers now — but the mascot stuck and remains a recognizable part of Jollibee's branding to this day.

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Jollibee's Mascot Took Inspiration From Mickey Mouse

jollibee mascot at entrance of restaurant
jollibee mascot at entrance of restaurant - Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

It may have been Tony Tan's idea to make the Jollibee mascot a bee, but Jollibee marketing consultant Manuel Lumba conceptualized the design. "I began to draw: if Disney had a mouse, why couldn't I have a bee? Then I added a chef's hat to suggest quality food, a red dinner jacket with a vest to boot, white gloves that reminded me of Disney characters," Lumba recalled to Entrepreneur in 2015.

Lumba's design also drew inspiration from Nanong Pandak, a character from a Filipino comic book series by Tony Velasquez. When flipping through his daughter's comic books, he noticed the chubby cheeks of the characters and decided to stylize the Jollibee mascot the same way. Lumba's design was then finalized by an advertising company before officially being integrated into the restaurant's branding. By 1982, the mascot was appearing in Jollibee commercials, while human-sized bee statues emerged at the entrances of the restaurants.

The Evolution Of Jollibee's Mascot

jollibee mascot greeting child
jollibee mascot greeting child - MDV Edwards/Shutterstock

When the original bee mascot was introduced, it looked somewhat different than it does today, though not completely unrecognizable. Much like the current version, it was red and had wings, antennae, a chef hat, and a red blazer. However, it also had green pants, a bowtie, and red shoes. This mascot version was slowly phased out in favor of a simpler design. It underwent the most noticeable change in 1996, with an update to the bee's facial expression. This included removing its eyebrows and giving it a wider smile.

Several other mascots, each corresponding to different Jollibee menu items, now accompany the Jollibee bee. The first one to join the bee in 1980 was Popo, a little boy whose hair looked like French fries. Sometime between 1980 and 1983, Jollibee added Mr. Yum, a mascot with a yumburger-shaped bowler hat. A boy named Mico, an anthropomorphic cow named Lady Moo, and a chicken named Chickee came along in 1983 to promote Jollibee's breakfast, milkshakes, and chicken. The fast food chain also introduced Hetty and Twirlie to round out the crew. These fast food mascots became the subject of a Jollibee-produced TV series called "Jollitown," which aired from 2008 to 2013. Since then, these mascots have made appearances at restaurant openings and other events, but the bee continues to be the most prominent one, featured in the majority of Jollibee's branding.

Read the original article on Daily Meal