Charles Schulz's characters were everywhere—the Today show, Snapchat, dual-branded packaging and social media posts for a variety of brands—and, at first glance, it seems to have worked. The movie brought in a healthy $45 million during its opening weekend.
But was that thanks to the film's marketing strategy? And even if the film's traditional marketing worked, were its myriad brand partnerships successful?
Not only were consumers able to 'Peanutize' themselves, but the film had major partnerships—including Target's co-branded television spots, McDonald's, Horizon Organic, Nestle, UNICEF, Little Debbie, Red Baron, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Tyson and a MetLife blimp. It also built up a huge following on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with most of its content targeting younger children.
The problem, however, is that even if the marketing was everywhere, consumers didn't engage with it on the same level they engaged with the Minions effort.
Analytics firm Unmetric says The Peanuts Movie had a few marketing successes, but that overwhelmingly the film's brand partnerships and social content created "dismal" engagement online.
The "Get Peanutized" customized avatar effort was clearly the movie's most popular marketing element, earing writeups from the likes of USA Today and even a segment in Jimmy Fallon's monologue.
The film also likely got a lift from the coinciding release of U.S. Postal Service stamps marking the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
In terms of brand partnerships, "tried-and-true tactics such as contests and discounts" drove high levels of engagement for The Peanuts Movie, said Unmetric CEO Lux Narayan, but almost all other co-branded content was rated "dismal" by the analytics service due to lack of response or sharing by social media users.
Despite the marketing blitz, some fans on Reddit were even left wondering if the movie had any marketing push at all, which raises the question of whether media dollars were spent in the most strategic ways.
"The lack of engagement may be a result of timing and the 'freshness' of the narratives," said Vann Graves, president and CCO at marketing agency Fancy Rhino. "While both sets of characters (Minions and Peanuts) come from movies that have garnered and maintained loyal audiences, the generations they appeal to are different."
Dave McIninch, CRO of marketing software firm Acquisio, agreed. "The interesting difference between the Minions and Charlie Brown is legacy and nostalgia," he said.
Graves further explained that "the generation that grew up with the Peanuts characters aren't nearly as socially motivated or active as the generation today that has fully embraced the Minions characters. While it is the norm for a millennial today to actively engage with a brand, movie or character online, those that grew up with the Peanuts character would need to be highly motivated to suddenly re-engage with a more dormant narrative."