Looking to connect with moms, Red Baron pizza transitions male mascot to a female equivalent

She's a tough aviator with her own war stories, and she could soon be the sole face of the company.

Frozen pizza brand Red Baron has been represented by the same mascot since its founding in 1976, a dapper man sporting a red scarf, flight goggles and impressively coiffed moustache. The Baron has graced packaging and appeared in commercials for the brand, which is second only to DiGiorno in U.S. sales in the category.

Now, after more than 40 years on his own, the World War I ace pilot is getting a wingwoman. Red Baron has just introduced The Baroness, a new character intended to speak to the primary purchasers of the product: mothers

"When you think about raising a family in 2017, it’s hard work, and a lot of moms out there really are sort of battle-hardened when it comes to the responsibilities of motherhood. It seemed like there were natural correlations between who this character could be and who moms are," said Brock Davis, chief creative officer at space150. In 2016, the Minneapolis-based agency won creative AOR duties for Schwan’s Consumer Brands, the parent of Red Baron and frozen foods brands like Freschetta and Tony's pizza, Mrs. Smith's and Pagoda.

Gone are The Baron’s goggles, replaced by aviator sunglasses. The Baroness retains the red scarf and dons a bomber jacket decked in patches that commemorate parenting victories like the "Clean Plate Club" or "Tantrum Slayer." She’s introduced in a commiserative conversation with Kristin Hensley, comedian and creator of the #IMomSoHard web series. The 30-second spot is online now and will begin running in TV placements in July.

"The Baroness is a mom who understands parenting doesn’t always mean perfection," said April Anslinger, chief growth officer at Schwan’s Consumer Brands. She "not only embraces the messiness and chaos of motherhood but also champions all moms and the decisions they have to make every day. As the new voice of the brand, the Baroness will speak to busy moms as only another mom can, by finding humor in the often-hectic moments of motherhood."

While space150 was responsible for last year’s 40th anniversary "Timeless" campaign for Red Baron, that was already in the works when the agency won the business. That makes "The Baroness" the first campaign for the brand the agency has shepherded from inception.

But space150 didn’t initially set out to reimagine the Baron. Anslinger had joined Schwan’s Consumer Brands last year, and she wanted a campaign that would reach mothers. "They did not specifically ask for a new mascot," Davis said. Instead, the idea grew out of trying to "connect a little bit more with real moms, those ‘bad moms’ who sometimes feel guilty when they can’t make a perfect, organic meal for their children," he added, and recognizing that "carving out a few minutes in the day to have a second of ‘me’ time is something that pizza really can help provide."

The Baroness began as a stray doodle by Art Director Andrew Beckman, a genderbent drawing of The Baron as a woman, casually titled "The Baroness." It lay among many others lying on the floor in front of the "idea wall" and was eventually noticed by a writer. "Once he picked up that paper, then we really started opening that possibility. ‘Wow what if we reimagined this character to be a woman,’" Davis said.

At first, the Baroness was intended to reinforce the brand equity of the original Baron. But her role grew as the idea took shape. "We’re thinking of her as being independent of him," Davis said. She’s not his wife nor his daughter, and the two characters don’t appear together. There is no passing of the torch.

She will appear in the TV, digital and social spots, while the Baron remains the brand’s logo and on the box—for now. "It’s quite an undertaking to press a button and now everything changes for a brand," Davis said. "If she ends up becoming the true face of the brand as far as being on packaging and on the sides of trucks, that’s a direction we’d love to take it, and we’re hoping to take it. We haven’t made that an official green light."

But the actor who plays The Baroness is contracted long-term, and is committed to the role, Davis said. The agency worked with Twitter to secure a dormant handle, @baroness, and the character will begin offering social media fans ways to get patches of their own or suggest ideas for new ones.

"We want to let moms know that The Baroness supports them and is an advocate for them," Davis said. "Not everything can be a utopia that you see on Instagram or Pinterest."

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