Why Planters Decided to Kill Off—and Resurrect—Mr. Peanut at the Super Bowl

How did #BabyNut pay off for the snack brand?

A still of Baby Nut laying on plants
Mr. Peanut made a reemergence as a Baby Nut at the Super Bowl.
Planters

Mr. Peanut was an undisputed star of this year’s Super Bowl, reemerging after he met his end in Planters’ pregame spot that saw the iconic legume meet his end after the explosion of his famed nutmobile, following an accident that saw him swerve it off a cliff.

The resurrection of Mr. Peanut may bring to mind the life and death of another famous character: Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow. At first blush, the banished solider turned hero in a medieval alternate universe doesn’t seem to have much in common with the dapper legume who sports a monocle and a top hat. But in fact, it was Snow’s storyline that helped inspire Mr. Peanut’s Super Bowl saga, according to Samantha Hess, the brand manager for Planters.

“We borrowed a page from pop culture, thinking about storylines of a Jon Snow,” Hess told Adweek the day after the Super Bowl. “There is this renewed appreciation for these fictional characters after their death, and then they come back with a renewed sense of purpose to what they’re doing, which helps to set up something bigger and a little bit different.”

And Mr. Peanut is indeed embracing something different. In the Super Bowl spot, titled “Tribute,” Mr. Peanut was reborn as #BabyNut, “a little legume who carries with him the spirit and wisdom of Mr. Peanut,” according to Hess.

The idea for Mr. Peanut’s next chapter was the brainchild of VaynerMedia, the agency behind the campaign. Hess said Planters’ ultimate goal going into the Big Game was to make the company “one of the most talked about brands on Super Bowl”—and this campaign certainly delivered.

planters mr peanut ad
Mr. Peanut "died" in a spot released by Planters ahead of the Big Game.

But it did so with the brand undertaking a substantial risk. After all, Mr. Peanut is perhaps one of the world’s best known brand ambassadors. First introduced in 1916 (the year before the United States entered World War I, to put that number in perspective), Planters’ mascot has been a ubiquitous sight in advertisements, on peanut cans and more since then.

“Mr. Peanut is one of the best known icons in advertising,” said Hess. “But he also has been along for quite some time and isn’t necessarily one of the most relevant and contemporary out there.”

It was that thinking that led Planters to be open to the idea of killing off—and bringing back to life—its beloved mascot. From the moment that VaynerMedia pitched the idea to the Planters team, Hess said, the idea “gave us all goosebumps.”

“It was a unanimous vote at the end that this was the best of the ideas,” she said.  “It wasn’t just about Mr. Peanut dying to die. In his coming back, it enabled us to set the stage for something new and exciting for the brand.”

Planters’ Super Bowl campaign gave the brand a chance to breathe new life into Mr. Peanut—literally. It kicked off with a pregame ad, called “Road Trip,” that saw Mr. Peanut’s now famous death, after his nutmobile swerved off the side of a cliff.

The campaign was an instant success—#RIPeanut was trending on Twitter within minutes, Mr. Peanut’s death made an appearance in two New Yorker cartoons and even got a shoutout in Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update segment. Hess said that the brand was inundated with a slew of calls and messages from people who were sad to see the death of Mr. Peanut.

“It was so amazing to see out in the world, how many other people truly do have that emotional connection and tied to Mr. Peanut and the brand in some fashion,” she said. “This was a reminder for them that hadn’t really existed prior to this point.”

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