This season, the Mercantile is offering many Smokey Bear items for our customers’ souvenir pleasure. We have 1,000 piece Smokey Bear jigsaw puzzles. We have decks of Smokey Bear playing cards. We have Smokey Bear magnets, Smokey Bear wooden postcards, and Smokey Bear wooden gift tags. We have Smokey Bear metal signs and some made out of wood. We have Smokey Bear sanctioned survival kits, whistles, binoculars, and compasses. We have Smokey Bear t-shirts, Smokey Bear coasters, and Smokey Bear plush toys. We have representations of Smokey Bear all over the store, but most are concentrated on the top shelf of a unit directly across from the beverage cooler.
One Sunday morning a large group of people came into the Mercantile. They seemed to be a family group, and English did not seem to be their first language. One little boy was immediately drawn to the main display of Smokey Bear items, but he was a bit confused.
Snoopy the Bear! Snoopy the Bear! he shouted with glee.
His mother was right behind him. I thought she’d explain to him that Snoopy is a dog, and Smokey is a bear, but no. That’s not what happened. Instead of correcting him, the mother agreed with him. Snoopy the Bear! she said in a voice of excitement similar to her son’s. Snoopy the Bear!
Marketing fail—for both the estate of Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, of which Snoopy is a character, and for the USDA Forest Service, which owns the rights to the image of Smokey Bear.
Unfortunately for the Mercantile’s bottom line, the woman did not buy her son a souvenir by any name.