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.
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