By RICH FOLEY
I must admit I’ve always liked Snuggle, the fabric softener spokesbear who’s been representing his namesake product for more than 20 years now. Even so, I’ve never been a huge fan of fabric softeners in general.
I can’t stand the sheets and since until recently I’ve spent my entire adult life going to Laundromats, I found liquid softener to be just another few pounds I could safely avoid dragging along. Snuggle himself was a little harder to ignore, though. What’s not to like about a friendly bear who apparently enjoys doing laundry?
In the mid-1980s, Lever Brothers decided to license Snuggle’s image to a stuffed animal manufacturer to join other trademarks being used to market stuffed toys. Soon, stuffed Snuggles in three sizes were available at finer gift shops everywhere. One of those shops was on my advertising route and soon I succumbed to the silent pleadings of a small size Snuggle.
Since I had my own apartment by this time, Snuggle didn’t have to worry about suffering the fate of Teddy, my childhood bear. I’ve already written about Teddy’s decapitation at the hands of my jealous brother. Snuggle had no such worries at the apartment.
In late 1986, some retailers of Snuggle fabric softener offered a free acrylic Snuggle Christmas ornament with a softener purchase. I broke down and bought a box of the hated sheets just to get an ornament. I mentioned to the cashier that it was pretty stupid of me to buy a product I didn’t want just for the freebie.
She asked if I wanted some more as most customers weren’t taking them, then went and got me ten extra from the display. I next purchased a small artificial tree and decorated it with Snuggle ornaments with the unused box of sheets underneath.
At this point, things temporarily got out of hand. I purchased a medium size stuffed Snuggle at an after-Christmas sale, then the large size at a going-out-of-business sale in Toledo. Since I had only so much display space at the apartment, I bought the Snuggles their own laundry basket and put them and all their related items in it. Hey, it was still cheaper and easier than buying real pets.
But this was pretty much it for the Snuggle spending spree. My niece Shannon later bought me a miniature one and some years later my sister gave me another small size Snuggle she got for purchasing a 55-gallon drum or some similar size of softener.
Although it looked nearly identical to my first Snuggle, these later ones were made in China, unlike my first three which were lovingly handcrafted in Korea (North or South, they didn’t specify). And that’s it for the Snuggle collection. Although the bear still continues to pitch the product, Unilever (what happened to the Lever Brothers?) hasn’t licensed his image for other products for years.
The bear does seem to be keeping up with the times, though. Last week I got an email claiming to be from “Snuggle Bear.” Sure enough, Snuggle must have been taking website design classes somewhere because he now has his own site. It’s pretty impressive for anyone to have put together, even more so when you consider it’s the work of an imaginary bear.
Snuggle wanted me to know he has introduced some new varieties of softener and offered to send me samples. If I could just get the Snuggles in my basket to do the laundry like the television version does, I’d take him up on the offer. In the meantime, I’ve made an addition to the basket.
Last Saturday, I visited a resale shop in Montpelier and hiding in an aquarium with several other stuffed animals was an original Snuggle, identical to the first one I bought over 20 years ago. It even had all the proper tags still attached and appeared to have never been played with.
Stuffed Snuggles are obviously not a good investment. I paid $10 for my first one and took home the latest, now named Monty, for one dollar. That’s inflation in reverse, but I would have rescued Monty no matter what the price.
Now I have to email the Unilever Snuggle back and order those samples he offered. That’s simple enough. The hard part will be convincing a basket of stuffed bears they should be doing my laundry. But why not? They do it on television.– April 25, 2007