In a marketing campaign that highlights the demise of the traditional Super Bowl advertisement, Planters kills off its well-known mascot, Mr. Peanut.
In the YouTube video that Planters released more than a week before the big game, Mr. Peanut dies heroically saving his friends, actors Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes. His friends first hope that Mr. Peanut survives, but he’s roasted in the fiery crash of the NUTmobile.
Taking a mournful tone, Planters confirmed the death of its 104-year-old mascot in a press release. The brand will air the video showing Mr. Peanut’s passing during the Super Bowl’s pregame show, and an advertisement showing his funeral during the game’s third quarter.
“It’s with heavy hearts that we confirm Mr. Peanut has passed away at 104 years old,” said Samantha Hess, Planters brand manager at Kraft Heinz. “He will be remembered as the legume who always brought people together for nutty adventures and a good time.”
Using the @MrPeanut Twitter handle, “the official Twitter of the Estate of Mr. Peanut,” Planters asked followers to pay their respects with the hashtag #RIPeanut. The tweet garnered more than 8.8 thousand comments and 27.4 thousand retweets in a day. Other brands, including Crayola, Skippy and Mr. Clean, expressed their condolences.
Time may show if Twitter commenters will buy more peanuts or if they just enjoy making peanut puns.
A Nutty Marketing Campaign?
Some media commentators called the death a questionable marketing strategy. Killing off a mascot that’s possibly more famous than the brand itself seems nuts, opined Vox. Calum Marsh at the National Post called the campaign “dead on arrival,” saying it cannot be repeated.
Brands have killed of their mascots in the past, Vox notes. General Mills temporarily replaced its cartoon Trix bunny with a real bunny to promote all-natural ingredients. It later also replaced the Honey Nut Cheerios bee with a blank silhouette on its boxes to raise awareness of declining bee populations.
Some observers predict Planters will replace Mr. Peanut with a fresher, younger and more hip version, somewhat like KFC replaced Colonel Sanders with a young, slim computer-generated character. Others fear that Planters will somehow revive the mascot, much like IHOP briefly changed its name to IHOb, then promptly revived its old name.
A Shift to PR and Social Media
The marketing campaign is part of a larger trend of brands combining advertising, social media marketing and public relations in Super Bowl campaigns. YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms are becoming the first-string players in brands’ marketing games. Many brands seem more preoccupied with creating a viral social media meme than a slick TV ad.
In some cases, they’re embracing only social media. The reach and affordability of social media and expensive prices of television ads are factors in the trend. Even small businesses can join popular social media conversations without paying for television ads.
Internet marketing also offers superior audience targeting and measurement capabilities. Corporations target smaller but specific audiences and track online clicks, reach and other metrics more easily online than though TV advertising.
“If I run a televised Budweiser ad, I can’t measure who then went out and bought a case of beer,” David Warschawski, CEO and founder of the Warschawski agency, told Wired. “When it’s hard to show the ROI, why would you do it? Online is much more targeted, and every click moves the consumer down the funnel toward purchases.”
Who will start a “Bring Back Mr. Peanut” campaign? Maybe Planters.
Bottom Line: The Planters Super Bowl campaign exemplifies the latest marketing techniques. Planters shows how to combine advertising, public relations and social media to increase awareness with a light-hearted PR stunt.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.