Bright red. Always having a laugh. Big earrings! Take one look at The Laughing Cow, the friendly brand mascot for the snack cheese distributed by The Bel Group, and you’ll feel your spirits begin to lift.
What you may not realize is the rich history behind this brand mascot. French founder Léon Bel launched The Laughing Cow in 1921 and three years later changed the logo to an image of a cow wearing earrings. This was all part of a vision Bel had for the brand and its logo — one which would go on to enlist the creativity of many artists.
PopIcon spoke to The Laughing Cow to learn more about the mascot’s history spanning more than 100 years, why the brand waited to introduce The Laughing Cow mascot to the U.S. audience, and whether those big earrings really are made of cheese.
How would you describe the personality of The Laughing Cow?
The Laughing Cow is the friend who brings the party to life and fills lives with laughter. The Laughing Cow is genuine and lighthearted, looking for ways to connect, and laugh, with everyone in the room, never using comedy to poke fun at people. The Laughing Cow’s humor stands out and turns heads – after all, it’s a little weird! We embrace that it is a big red cow, full of laughter!
The Laughing Cow logo was changed by Léon Bel in 1924. Is Bel also considered the creator of the brand’s mascot?
Léon Bel is indeed considered the creator of The Laughing Cow brand mascot.
The idea for The Laughing Cow was born out of a meeting between Benjamin Rabier, a master cartoonist, and Léon Bel, originally a cheese producer from France. Léon Bel was mobilized in 1914 and was part of the 7th squadron of the military equipment-automobiles train. There was a drawing contest launched to create an emblem for his unit. The unit that Léon Bel belonged to ended up with one of Benjamin Rabier’s drawings, which depicted the laughing head of an ox. In 1919, when Léon Bel demobilized and continued to work on his business, he registered the “The Laughing Cow” trademark in 1921 and went on to sharpen his vision for the brand.
In 1921, Leon Bel developed his new cheese recipe and launched it under the brand name “La Vache Qui Rit,” which translates to “The Laughing Cow” in English. The Laughing Cow logo was introduced three years later, in 1924, as part of the brand’s packaging and marketing materials, which Bel worked on with multiple artists to achieve his vision.
The Laughing Cow has a distinct look: red with signature earrings. Is Bel credited with giving these fun characteristics to the cow or did someone else do it?
The Laughing Cow character, with its iconic red earrings, friendly smile, and the distinctive triangular cheese wedge on its head, made its debut in 1924. It quickly became the recognizable symbol of The Laughing Cow brand and has been associated with the brand ever since.
Over the years, the logo has undergone some modifications, but the essence of The Laughing Cow character has remained consistent as the brand’s enduring mascot. Léon Bel was very particular about his vision for the logo and spent countless hours with artists to create his perfect vision.
Are the earrings supposed to be little cheese wedges?
Yes! The earrings are the outer round box that the cheese wedges are packaged in.
How did the brand decide the cow should be laughing?
The Laughing Cow’s mascot was driven by a desire to create a strong and positive brand image, establish an emotional connection with consumers, and differentiate themselves in the market.
Has The Laughing Cow experienced any dramatic changes over the decades, through design or character personality?
The mascot has gone through quite a few revisions over the years, though its essence has always remained the same.
There is a tell-tale list of those who worked to create, establish, and develop the range of images of The Laughing Cow. From Rabier to Franquin, to Poulbot, Baille, Saint-Ogan, Dubout, Grimault, Bayle, Morvan, Pernel, and more, all these amazing artists were involved in some way with Bel’s creative vision in mind.
Even though The Laughing Cow has been around for decades, the mascot didn’t get a commercial until 2008 in the United States. Why so long of a wait?
At Bel, a certain level of product distribution is built up prior to launching national marketing campaigns inclusive of TV. While The Laughing Cow was first introduced in the U.S. about 25 years ago, the brand waited until 2008 to launch a TV campaign featuring the cow icon to ensure the product was readily available at a national scale.
Tell us more about The Laughing Cow’s new brand purpose in 2020 to inspire people to choose to laugh at life.
For more than 100 years, The Laughing Cow has been inspiring people to choose to laugh at life. Laughter is one of the most powerful human emotions: It does not just make us happier, but it has the power to positively transform our lives. While days get busy and life produces its fair set of challenges, The Laughing Cow wants to remind everyone that it’s better to laugh at life. We want to inspire others to choose to laugh at life along with us, especially while enjoying our creamy, delicious, spreadable cheese.
Having reached our 100th anniversary in 2021, we’re happy to have provided decades of creamy goodness to cheese and snack lovers worldwide.
How would you describe The Laughing Cow’s social media presence?
The Laughing Cow’s social media presence is rooted in the fact that we want to be a mirror to our digital consumers. We looked at our online mentions and started to see a pattern of off-the-wall, unique and weird humor. We wanted to reflect that by speaking to social trends in a way that is relatable to our consumers and that sparks conversation – even if sometimes, we get a bit cheesy.
What does the future hold for The Laughing Cow in 2023 and beyond?
We’re excited for what is to come for The Laughing Cow! At the start of 2023, the brand posted its first TikTok, and started growing its community on a new platform for a new generation of cheese lovers. We’re embracing our wacky and silly side and look forward to seeing where the future takes us.
Image credits: The Laughing Cow