Update, Jan. 27, 2020: Planters’ parent company, Kraft Heinz, announced on Monday that it is pausing all of the activities around the Mr. Peanut campaign in the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s death.
Mr. Peanut is Dead. The 104-year-old wasn’t too salty as he fell to his demise following a tragic NUTmobile crash on Wednesday, Jan. 22.
At some point on Wednesday, whether it was on Twitter or Instagram, you probably saw that Planters, the makers of the snack, posting about Mr. Peanut “dying” in a car accident. The campaign, er…, I mean, exclusive footage, shows the legume traveling in the NUTmobile to get to the Super Bowl with friends, Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. To save Snipes and Walsh, the Monocled One sacrifices his life to save the others. As the news spread (like peanut butter maybe?), other brands sent condolences. NASCAR, Oscar Mayer, Angry Orchard, and, yes, even Crayola, were saddened in their tweets. Will the world be the same? Could we use Tony Stark’s Power Gauntlet to bring him back?
In all seriousness, the Death of Mr. Peanut is (so far) a well-crafted public relations and marketing campaign by Planters. While mascots are a draw in sports, the same cannot always be said when it comes to, for example, food brands. Whether it’s the Honey Nut Cheerio’s Bee, The Jolly Green Giant, or, if you go back to the 1990’s, the Domino’s Pizza Noid, the appeal does not last long today. Each of the above brands still utilize those mascots, but not to the extent during my own childhood in the 1980’s.
Mr. Peanut has been around since 1918, with some not-so-slight cosmetic surgery along the way. During World War II, he was featured on stamps and propaganda posters to support U.S. Military efforts. While he may not have his traditional monocle in the poster, it has been with him everywhere else: Packaging, marketing materials, and cartoons.
So, why with an over 100 year history, would Planters go nuts and crack his shell after all this time? It’s not like Mr. Peanut was causing the brand any harm. It didn’t invoke any hate, or even come off as out-of-touch.
There are a few reasons, though, that this is a decent PR move for Planters.
- While the love was out on social media for Mr. Peanut on Jan. 22, this isn’t like sending Mario down a pipe to his doom, or finally putting Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly to a nursing facility. Even with over 100 years of history, there’s only so much you can do, marketing-wise.
- The Super Bowl. It’s the granddaddy of them all when it comes to selling and promoting. Brands pay millions for just 30 seconds of time. Why? Because no matter if you are into the game, or not, you’re going to watch. What commercials were had you laughing? Which ones should have never left the drawing board? Planters said everything, “will make more sense after people have a chance to watch the spot during the Super Bowl’s third quarter.”
- Planters now has everyone talking, as well as getting #RIPeanut to trend, leading up to Super Bowl 54. They’ll keep the death of Mr. P fresh in people’s minds, by sending the NUTmobiles around the country between now and Feb. 2. If you spot it, they’ll give you a Mr. Peanut pin, which you could wear to the memorial service, if there is one.
- The 30-second video. It was the perfect length to keep you watching and wondering, “Why the heck is Mr. Peanut driving around with Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh?!” By keeping the content tight, it’s not going to interrupt your Twitter or Instagram feed.
- It’s fun! No, I don’t mean that death is great. But, Planters sending Sir P. to a not-so-natural demise (but it’s great for natural peanut butter!), gets “fans” involved in sharing. As of this writing, the post announcing his death has nearly 28,000 retweets and close to 114 thousand likes on Twitter. You can’t just knock off a character on a whim. There was risk and creativity involved. So far, it’s working.
These sort of campaigns have the risk of backfiring on brands. Just look at last year’s TurboTax “RoboChild” ad. But, if you can do the right research and understand your audience well, it’s a risk worth taking. But, that’s easy for me to say. I’m not the one spending millions of dollars to kill a peanut just for some Super Bowl action.