The Inside Story of How Mr. Peanut Learned to Dab, and Got Nominated for a Shorty Award

New video aims to up mascot's chances

The Planters' mascot learns to dab before the Macy's parade.

It’s not often that a peanut makes news, but just in case you missed it, it happened over Thanksgiving.

Mr. Peanut—Planters’ monocle-wearing, top-hatted mascot—had taken his place atop the Nutmobile in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Like countless other brand mascots at the event, Mr. Peanut spent his time bowing, waving and variously acknowledging the 3.5 million people lining the parade’s two-mile route through Manhattan.

Unlike those other mascots, however, Mr. Peanut had been practicing a special move—right as the Nutmobile rolled past the Macy’s store in Herald Square, Mr. Peanut did the dab.

It happened in an instant: a slight head bow into the crook of one elbow with the other arm extended. That might have been the end of it, too, were it not for a spectator who created a GIF of the moment and posted it.

Now, after months of getting shared all over the web, that GIF is up for a Shorty Award, and Planters has mobilized once again. Today, the brand’s marketing team is unveiling an Academy Award-style “for your consideration” video and related promotional posters, all in hopes of upping Mr. Peanut’s chances of winning.

“When we found out about the Shorty nomination, we were excited,” said senior assistant brand manager Brandon Bhagat, “and we figured we’d have some fun with it. It’s Oscars season, and you have all these superstars promoting themselves—so why not Mr. Peanut?”

The video purports to tell the backstory of how Mr. Peanut learned to dab. It takes viewers into a dance studio where a demanding instructor is putting the anthropomorphic legume through a torturous rehearsal that isn’t going well. In frustration, Mr. Peanut takes a break and gazes out the window down to the street, where he spots some teenage girls dabbing. That, of course, gives him an idea.

Questioned as to whether this scenario is a strictly factual recounting of how Mr. Peanut actually learned to dab, Bhagat responded, “You have to take some poetic license.”

One thing is sure: When Mr. Peanut was putting together some new moves last summer (which was also his 100th birthday), dabbing was nearing the apogee of its popularity. Tom Hanks, Prince Harry, LeBron James, Ellen DeGeneres and Hillary Clinton all have been spotted dabbing in the past year or so.

Most notoriously, U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall’s teenage son Cal fouled up his father’s swearing-in ceremony in January by dabbing for photographers and confusing the hell out of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

But nobody was in doubt about what Mr. Peanut was up to during the parade on Thanksgiving. According to Planters’ tally, some 45,000 people tweeted about Mr. Peanut’s dab, helping to create a total of 200 million media impressions. That kind of reception is a big reason why the GIF wound up in Shorty contention. Founded in 2008, the awards salute the influencers who’ve created the year’s best social-media content. Past honorees have included DJ Khaled, Hannibal Buress, J.K. Rowling and Taylor Swift.

With voting set to close on Feb. 16, Planters hopes to whip up more enthusiasm among the voting public by deploying its video and posters across its social-media platforms. If Mr. Peanut winds up as a finalist, Planters will dispatch the Nutmobile to New York (presumably with Mr. Peanut inside.)

Regardless of how things turn out for Planters, the contest is a textbook example of how brand marketing has moved away from campaigns planned in office towers and into the realm of pure happenstance. Planters still doesn’t know who shot the video of Mr. Peanut dabbing and, while the dance move had been deliberately incorporated into the mascot’s repertoire of moves, Bhagat says nobody thought it would ever turn into something this big. (Just for the record, Squidward of SpongeBob fame also dabbed during the parade, but that didn’t generate the buzz Mr. Peanut did.)

“It was 100 percent organic how this took off, totally user-generated, and we found out about it very recently,” Bhagat said. “Mr. Peanut just wanted to nail something that was on trend, and the parade seemed like the right moment.”

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