Dr. Oetker Stories

Johanna Kind – The Woman Behind the Hellkopf

Hardly any other logo is as well-known in Europe as the Dr. Oetker Hellkopf. It has been our trademark for over 120 years and in over 40 countries. But did you know that there is a real person behind the logo?

Johanna Kind – The Woman Behind the Hellkopf

2.11.2023 History

There are many characteristics that distinguish successful brands. Distinctiveness is key. Customers must be able to identify at first glance that it is "their" brand. Dr. August Oetker also recognized this. He had a logo developed that has unmistakably stood for the Dr. Oetker company since 1899: The Hellkopf

A brand is born

The success of the baking powder Backin turned a small pharmacy in Bielefeld into a veritable food manufacturer. Within a few years, the name Dr. Oetker stood for baking powder, pudding, cornstarch and much more. A catchy logo for the new brand was needed, because quite a few market competitors were trying to ride the wave of Dr. Oetker’s success, so that there was a risk of confusion in food retail. The foam glass logo used from 1892 onwards was therefore no longer sufficient as a distinguishing feature. In addition, it was clear that the pharmacy business would no longer play a role in the future. As a result, the foam glass had lost its connection to its original business model.

The first Dr. Oetker logo

The first Dr. Oetker logo. It featured a foam glass and was first used in 1892. The carbonic acid reaction depicted made direct reference to the typical pharmacy articles of the time.

"A bright head always uses..."

A new logo was needed, one that matched the brand's new claims: "A bright head always uses...", "A bright head bakes with..." and similar variations should be employed. So the focus was on the narrative that intelligent people use Dr. Oetker products. To develop the logo, Dr. August Oetker launched a competition. The first place was to be the brand's new logo.

The winner of the competition was the Bielefeld based designer Theodor Kind. Dr. August Oetker had already been a satisfied customer of his business for some time. Kind made a silhouette of his daughter Johanna for the competition and thus met exactly the taste of the company founder. In an interview conducted years later, Johanna recounted how, at the personal request of Dr. August Oetker, she had her hair styled to conform to the fashion taste of the time. The topknot was the result of Dr. Augst Oetker’s personal taste. Several variants of the Hellkopf were created, the version still used today was made in 1905.

Portrait of Johanna Kind

A private portrait of Johanna Kind around 1900 at the age of around 20 years.

Johanna Kind becomes the face of the brand Dr. Oetker

Johanna was about 20 years old in the first pictures and was repeatedly commissioned for advertising shoots in the following years. She married in 1907 and from then on went by her surname Ulrich and gave a detailed account of her experiences as a model for Dr. Oetker. At the turn of the century, photography was still a tedious business. Due to the technical limitations of the cameras, it was necessary to hold still for minutes. For the people to be photographed, it was an ordeal when baking scenes were to be recreated. In a 1963 interview, she vividly recalled:

"If I wobbled, the whole procedure had to be repeated the next day. Often I didn't feel like it anymore. But then Dr. Oetker came and promised me something nice if I kept still. Because he was always so nice to us, I usually found myself ready to record again quickly. When my picture appeared in the 'Woche', for example, and I was approached by my friends about it, I was very proud."

Johanna enjoyed her job and had a good personal relationship with the Oetker family. For example, she had a childhood friendship with Rudolf Oetker, the son of the founder. Caroline Oetker, the wife of Dr. August Oetker, always had an open ear for her and comforted her if she was not feeling well or was frustrated by the strenuous recordings.

Dr. Oetker's Backpulver advertisement

An advertisement from 1909. Johanna was now called Ulrich, as she had married in 1907. But she still advertised for Dr. Oetker.

Decades later, she still looked back with pride on her time as Dr. Oetker's first advertising figure. In 1963, she visited the company's headquarters in Bielefeld, was given a tour of the production facility and talked shop in the test kitchen with its manager Marie-Louise Grothe, who later became another advertising icon of the company as Marie-Louise Haase.

She also revealed her favorite Dr. Oetker product: chocolate pudding with chopped almonds. "Even as a young girl, it wasn't difficult for me to make a beaming face in publicity photos with this Dr. Oetker dish!"

Johanna Ulrich, née Kind, died in 1966 after a long and fulfilled life.