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"The Penguins are coming": brand mascots and utopian mass consumption in interwar Britain

Hornsey, Richard



This article explores the cultural dynamics of branding and mass consumption in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. It focuses on Penguin Books’ cartoon mascot, which appeared on all of the firm's paperback covers and in-store promotional material from 1935. A familiar but critically ignored cultural icon, Penguin's mascot followed a wave of prominent advertising characters that energetically burst onto Britain's commercial scene in the early 1920s. Highly visible on packaging, poster hoardings, and advertisements within the press, brand mascots became popular media stars in the 1920s, seeming to herald a dawning age of material parity and collective consumer sovereignty. A decade later, Penguin's mascot used this utopianism around branded mass consumption to forge a leftist vision of social-democratic progress. Augmented by certain in-store display techniques and modes of purchase, Penguin Books appeared to constitute an enlightened public sphere. The cartoon bird became a lucrative mechanism through which browsers were invited to contribute to this progressive cultural project.


Hornsey, R. (2018). "The Penguins are coming": brand mascots and utopian mass consumption in interwar Britain. Journal of British Studies, 57(4), 812-839.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 14, 2018
Online Publication Date Nov 8, 2018
Publication Date Nov 8, 2018
Deposit Date May 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Nov 8, 2018
Journal Journal of British Studies
Print ISSN 0021-9371
Electronic ISSN 1545-6986
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 57
Issue 4
Pages 812-839
Keywords Cultural Studies; History
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information License: Copyright © The North American Conference on British Studies 2018


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