Given our collection of toy make-overs, I was curious when I heard that Quaker Oats had re-vamped their mascot, Larry.  In the toys we’ve covered, the trend is towards greater feminization and sexualization.  Larry, though, is a dude.  And do we really need to sexualize our oatmeal?  (Well, you never know.)

It turns out what prompted the mascot make-over wasn’t an effort to make Larry sexier, but to make him look healthier.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the director of Quaker’s brand-design firm wanted to reinforce people’s association of oatmeal with “energy and healthy choices.”  And by “healthy,” they mean “thin.”   They reduced the roundness of his chin and cheeks.  They also gave him a hair cut in order to expose the sides of his neck.  Another representative of the brand redesign explains: “It’s the same neck,” but the haircut “makes him look thinner… We took about five pounds off him.”

If it’s tough for you to tell the difference between the two, it’s by design.  Quaker wants the changes to work on a subconscious level.  A fascinating peak into the motives and tactics of brand management.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.