Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio,
Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you,
With his bantamweight’s physique, and graceful gait, Giuseppe Paolo DiMaggio–better known as a Joltin’ Joe–was the New York Yankees center fielder between 1936 and 1951. The son of an immigrant San Francisco fisherman, and Marilyn Monroe’s second husband, the Hall of Famer was also a symbol of America’s halcyon days before the country erupted in tribal clashes and civil unrest in the 1960s.
That iconic quality made DiMaggio not just a lyrical touchstone for Simon and Garfinkel’s soundtrack for the movie, The Graduate, but also a uniquely successful brand in American marketing history. He hawked a New York bank, Bowery Savings and Loan, Wheaties, and Camel cigarettes but it wasn’t until a businessman named Vincent Marotta went looking for a pitchman for his home drip-coffee maker in 1974 that the five-tool player became a five-star brand.
The ensuing television commercials aired until 1990, with the avuncular DiMaggio typically dressed in a cardigan, helping to sell millions of Mr. Coffee units. DiMaggio’s cool demeanor was reassuring to American consumers who feared, especially in the turbulent 1970s, that the country was tearing apart at the seams.
And with his brand fortified by the Mr. Coffee commercials, DiMaggio went on to make millions autographing baseball memorabilia. His brand, in the final analysis, was as uncomplicated as his mantra:
“A person always doing his or her best becomes a natural leader just by example.”