June 28, 2015

“It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!”

The word “chiffon” started out as a French term for a rag or small piece of cloth. Several centuries ago, fabric and clothing manufacturers adopted it as the name of a light, airy fabric.

This led to the use of “chiffon” as a generic or brand name for a number of other consumer products, ranging from cake and toilet paper to margarine, as a way of emphasizing their “fluffiness.”

Chiffon margarine was first manufactured in the 1950s by the Texas-based corporation Anderson, Clayton and Company (ACCO).

ACCO had sold cotton and cotton products since the early 1900s. In 1952, the company created a food division to find uses for hydrogenated cottonseed oil.

Two years later, ACCO began selling products made with this oil, including Seven Seas salad dressing and Chiffon margarine.

Chiffon was one of the first soft, tub-style margarine products. But by the 1960s there were many brands of soft margarines and, to the dismay of ACCO executives, Chiffon lacked notable name recognition among consumers.

That changed in the 1970s, when the company began airing TV commercials for Chiffon that included a memorable character and a slogan that became a pop culture catchphrase:

      “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

These classic Chiffon ads featured the talented Hollywood character actress Dena Dietrich as Mother Nature.

The video at right is a typical example.

In this early Chiffon commercial (possibly the first), Mother Nature is given some Chiffon to taste.

She likes it and identifies it as “my delicious butter.”

The narrator then tells her: “That’s Chiffon margarine, not butter…Chiffon’s so delicious it fooled even you, Mother Nature.”

Perturbed at being tricked, Mother Nature responds with her signature line: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

She underscores her displeasure by creating a flash of lightning and a loud peal of thunder.

A series of Chiffon ads using the tagline made it a widely known and significantly boosted sales of Chiffon.

Er, naturally, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” was trademarked by ACCO. According to the papers filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, it was first used in commerce on June 28, 1972.

Based on old newspaper clips I found online, I think Chiffon ads with Dietrich as Mother Nature may actually have started airing in 1971 in some media markets, possibly for test-marketing purposes. However, June 28th is the official anniversary of the famed line.

It continued to be used in Chiffon ads throughout the 1970s and was finally retired in the ‘80s.

In the 1990s, ACCO sold Chiffon to Kraft. Kraft sold it to ConAgra a few years later. Shortly after that, production of Chiffon was discontinued.

However, the now proverbial phrase “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature” lives on as a humorous saying that’s still heard today.

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