“Just follow your nose!”
The Pillsbury Doughboy, Jolly Green Giant and Marlboro Man all owe their existence to one man. But these advertising characters are really not such a big deal, you could point out. Internationally they would be trifling alongside Ronald McDonald or Mickey Mouse.
Leo Burnett didn't just come up with these, and other, corporate characters. He came up with the very idea of putting, literally, a face on a product. Without this Ronald wouldn't have even existed.
More basically, Burnett knew a lot about the human mind. His big discovery was that we think in pictures, not words. You can write a page as to why I should by product x, or you can show me a picture of it that makes it look appealing. Before Burnett most admen did the former. After him its all been the latter.
Lets say I get a book of coupons in the mail. How often is it an image something, say bananas, with a price next to it? How much time in commercials is really spent describing the product. How much shows the confident man driving his sleek car around at night?
Brand loyalty owes him much. The proliferation of advertising owes him even more. You can't have detailed descriptions on a highway billboard. Words and speed don't mix. As we've sped up the pace of life everything needed to be presented faster – through images. It is no different for advertising, except that advertising began it.
Burnett wanted us to pick up things subliminally. He wanted his message and ideas stored. I don't eat Fruit Loops, or Frosted Flakes. But Tony and Sam I can identify and quote with no problem. That's a powerful force, right there. When that power has now been codified and fine-tuned in such a way as to trigger emotion and longing, that's...the legacy of Burnett.