In the 1968, Vincent Marotta and Sam Glazer, highschool friends who became partners in a small construction company, decided to start a coffee delivery service. Obsessed with finding a way for people to make better coffee at home, an idea came to Marotta while he was recuperating from brain surgery in 1970. His great idea: A self-contained unit that would heat the water to 200°F and drip it through the coffee grounds once, not over and over again, as was the standard “percolater” method at the time. He and Glazer then hired two ex-Westinghouse engineers to design the product, which he named Mr. Coffee. The product was a hit almost instantly, but Marotta wanted to go national. His other great idea: He hired his boyhood hero, Joe DiMaggio, as the company spokesman. It worked. Within three years, the company dominated the coffeemaker market, producing nearly 40,000 Mr. Coffees a day, with annual sales approaching $150 million. In 1987 Glazer and Marotta, who once referred to himself as “the Michaelango of coffee,” decided to sell the company, but the product—and Marotta’s big idea—still dominate.
“Mr. Clean will clean your whole house / And everything that’s in it / Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean, Mr. Clean…” Within six months of its introduction in 1958 by Proctor & Gamble (including that earworm TV jingle), Mr. Clean became America’s bestselling household cleaner. The Mr. Clean character was designed by a Chicago ad agency in 1957, but Procter & Gamble—perhaps to ward off lawsuits from Yul Brynner, who affected a very similar look as the king of Siam in a popular musical of the time, The King and I— insisted that the character was modeled after a Navy sailor from Pensacola. Internationally, his name is usually translated into the local language—Maestro Lindo in Italy, Don Limpio in Spain, Meister Proper in Germany, and Monsieur Net in Quebec.
Rowan Atkinson, who created the 1990s British TV character, described Mr. Bean as a “boy trapped in a man’s body.” (Watch him try go shopping and you’ll see why.) Mr. Bean, who rarely speaks, was modeled after silent film stars as well as “Monsieur Hulot,” a bumbling character created by French director Jacques Tati in the 1950s. Atkinson debuted Mr. Bean at a French-only comedy festival in Montreal, Quebec, in 1987. Why? He wanted to see if non-English speakers would laugh at him. They did. The character didn’t even have a name when the show went in to production, but Atkinson just knew it had to be some kind of vegetable, and came close to calling him Mr. Cauliflower.
The Dr Pepper Company didn’t have its own bottling or distribution facilities, so it typically bid out the jobs to other soft drink companies, giving them a share of the company and profits in exchange. In some regions, Coca-Cola won the bid; in others, Pepsi or 7-Up did. Coke didn’t have distribution of Dr Pepper in the South, where it was most popular, so in the early ’80s Coke created a taste-alike brand and tested it in a few markets, most notably Waco, Texas, Dr Pepper’s hometown. This didn’t make the Pepper people happy, and the company sued when it discovered that Coke was calling its new drink “Peppo.” So Coke changed the name to “Dr. Pibb.” Still too close. (From a distance, the two lowercase b’s resembled p’s.) Finally, Coke revoked Pibb’s medical license and capitalized the two B’s, creating “Mr. PiBB,” which was just barely different enough.
The 1980s American rock group’s name started as a private joke. Inspired by a Weather Report song “Mr. Gone,” the band members began referring to each other as “Mr. _____,” filling in the blank with something to address a current situation. (e.g., “Here comes Mr. Late and his friend Mr. Even Later…”). After a while, they wanted the band’s name to follow the same form, but group members couldn’t agree on what word to use to fill in the blank. Finally, drummer Pat Mastelotto broke the impasse when he suggested “Mr. Mister.”