May 10, 1982 12:00 PM

There’s magic in the mark of the strawberry

Who’s the richest little girl in all the land? No, it’s not Little Orphan Annie, even with Daddy Warbucks paying the bills. Barbie? No way. Just as well, too, ’cause she spends all her time hanging around with that nerd Ken. Brooke Shields? No, silly. Besides, Brooke isn’t even little anymore!

So who could it be? Why, Strawberry Shortcake, of course! You say you don’t know Strawberry Shortcake? How can this be? Anyone who gives gifts to kids knows who Strawberry Shortcake is. She’s that cute little girl who lives in Strawberryland and wears a little bonnet covered with strawberries. Usually little Ms. Shortcake is a doll with strawberry-red hair and skin that smells like—oh, yummy!—strawberries. But that’s not all that Strawberry Shortcake is. She is also a logo on sleeping bags. And wallpaper. And lamps. And T-shirts. And books. And greeting cards. And 677 other things.

Why? Because Strawberry Shortcake makes lots of people happy. And happy people like to buy dolls, sleeping bags, wallpaper, lamps, T-shirts and 679 other things. Strawberry Shortcake products grossed $100 million in 1980, the year she was born. That’s enough to buy 400 million packs of bubble gum! And last year she earned five times more. That’s enough to buy her very own MX missile! Isn’t it nice that she makes customers and manufacturers happy? And do you know the people she makes happiest of all? The ones who own stock in the American Greetings Corporation. That is the company that collects a royalty on every Strawberry Shortcake product. Eight months ago a share of American Greetings stock was worth $13. Last week it was worth $22. If you had bought shares eight months ago, think how happy you would be!

Best of all, Strawberry Shortcake herself always has a great time. That is because the sun always shines on Strawberryland. And she has so many friends to have fun with! One of her friends is Raspberry Tart. Another is a little boy named Huckleberry Pie. Then there is Tamale, who is a mole from Mexico. He sleeps under his sombrero all day. Isn’t that cute? But don’t think that Strawberry Shortcake’s life is all play and no work. “I looked in my pantry this morning and counted my jars of jam,” she says in one of the many books written about her. “I’m running very low. I’ll make more jams and jellies than I ever did before. There will be lots to sell at the market!”

Strawberry Shortcake learned all about marketing from her godfather. His name is Jack Chojnacki. You pronounce it “hoy-nof-ski.” Jack is 41. He is also co-president of Those Characters From Cleveland. This is a subsidiary of American Greetings that spends its time creating cute characters like Strawbery Shortcake and Holly Hobbie and Ziggy. After it invents all those cute characters, it licenses them to people who make dolls and sleeping bags and 682 other things. Jack is always looking for new cute characters to license. Jack believes in research. A few years ago Jack learned something very interesting from his research. Strawberries sell! On cards. On gift wrap. On party goods. Jack told his staff what he had learned.

Here is where we meet the swell folks who brought Strawberry Shortcake into the world. Rex Conners is 60. He is a staff art director. Muriel Fahrion is 36. She is a staff artist. Rex knew about an American Greetings card that was very popular. It was a picture of a cute little girl who wore an orange bonnet and held a daisy. Rex always wondered why so many people liked this card. Then he heard what Jack had found out about strawberries. Rex pulled out the card of the cute little girl with the orange bonnet. There were tiny strawberries on the bonnet! So Rex asked Muriel to redraw the cute little girl. He wanted something lots more strawberryish. He and Muriel also designed a doll. The doll was also very strawberryish. Then they showed Jack the drawings and the doll. Jack liked them. Jack liked them so much he took them to Bernie Loomis!

Bernie is president of General Mills’ toy division. Bernie has a good eye for toys. Bernie created the Six Million Dollar Man doll. It sold a lot. Then Bernie signed up Darth Vader, Yoda and the other Star Wars characters. They’ve sold even more! Right from the start Bernie had a good feeling about the designs that Jack brought him. “Bernie said, ‘This is going to be the next major phenomenon in merchandising,’ ” Jack recalls. “He agreed to put General Mills’ resources behind it.” And that is how Strawberry Shortcake got her sugar daddy.

Today the skies are blue over Strawberryland. Strawberry Shortcake rode her own float in the Macy’s parade in New York last Thanksgiving! Pat Boone invited her to appear with him on the Easter Seals telethon! She got to kiss Ronald Reagan at the White House Easter egg roll! She had her own TV special last month! It was her third! And Strawberry Shortcake is starring in $12 million worth of commercials and advertisements this year alone!

But everyone knows that Toyland can be scarier than the darkest forest. Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck are lurking. So are Snoopy, Big Bird and Miss Piggy. And don’t forget that horde of blue trolls from Europe, the Smurfs! But Jack thinks a little girl who is all sugar and no spice is safe from danger. “Our slogan is, ‘Strawberry Shortcake lets a little girl stay a little girl.’ We won’t put her face on baseball gloves or lingerie. Good ideas don’t die—they are killed by mismanagement.”

Strawberry Shortcake lets Jack take care of management. She dreams about other things. Now it is spring. Soon it will be summer. Then it will be winter. Winter is one of her favorite times. “There’s nothing as nice as a Christmas tree!” she says. And Strawberry Shortcake is really looking forward to this Christmas. She has a special surprise planned. The surprise is three brand-new dolls. Pick up any one of the dolls. Squeeze its little sides. See its little mouth pucker into a little kiss. Then put your nose next to the little mouth. Breathe in. Smell the apricot? Or the lemon? Or the strawberry? Now, isn’t that a peachy idea?

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