They Killed Mr. Peanut

Mia Levine, Scarlet Staff

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January 22, 2020 will be a day that lives on in infamy, or so hoped the public relations staff of Planter’s  Peanuts. Mr. Peanut, the mascot for Planters, “passed away” on January 22 due to an act of self-sacrifice.

The announcement was made in a series of tweets and news released Wednesday. The first announcement was a cryptic tweet which was linked to a video showing Mr. Peanut sacrificing himself to save actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh. 

After the drop of this video, the official Mr. Peanut Twitter account tweeted, “It is with heavy hearts that we confirm that Mr. Peanut has died at 104. In the ultimate selfless act, he sacrificed himself to save his friends when they needed him most. Please pay your respects with #RIPeanut”. 

After this tweet, Mr. Peanut’s social media accounts were renamed “The Estate of Mr. Peanut” and replaced with a new profile picture of a crying monocle. #RIPeanut immediately hit number one trending on Twitter with users and brands mourning the loss of Mr. Peanut. Brands included in the mourning were Mr. Clean, Snickers, Reese’s, PETA, and others.

The death of Mr. Peanut did not come unexpectedly to Planter’s or the Kraft-Heinz brand, who owns Planters; this was all tied to the Super Bowl on February 2. The company planned to air the ad on television and social media in the lead-up to the game. 

Kraft-Heinz bought commercial spots for the Super Bowl to broadcast the passing and the funeral of Mr. Peanut. The first spot was to appear during the pregame show and then the funeral was to be broadcasted during the third quarter of the game. The point of the second ad, according to Kraft-Heinz, was “to mourn the loss of the beloved legume together.”

What the brand did not expect was the death of a basketball icon. On January 26, Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed when their helicopter crashed into a fog-covered hillside near Calabasas, California. All nine passengers were confirmed dead on the same day. Bryant’s death was leaked by TMZ and broadcasted all throughout social media. Following this leak, fans, friends, and family alike took to social media to send well wishes and share memories of Bryant’s career.

Following the death of Bryant, Planter’s announced it has paused its campaign on social media (such as YouTube and Twitter), but the Super Bowl commercials will still air. The brand has received a great deal of criticism. Taking a step back from the horrible death of Bryant and eight others, and viewing this through an objective lens, the whole point of the death of Mr. Peanut was to ramp up publicity for the Kraft-Heinz brand in anticipation of the Super Bowl. Planter’s and Kraft-Heinz already paid over 5 million dollars for the ads. The creative director at VaynerMedia (the creator of the commercials) revealed that social media’s emotional reaction to death was an important aspect of the plan and the best ads evoke an emotional response.

Through the death of Mr. Peanut, the brand knew exactly what it was doing: creating a social media frenzy to create revenue. The death felt more like a stunt than a tragic death and the intent was to enhance consumer’s connections with the brand. 

Following the death of Mr. Peanut and the days afterwards, I do not feel the need to go buy Planter’s Peanuts nor follow “The Estate of Mr. Peanut” account. Brands try to create social media frenzies for attention but truthfully, so many brands have tried to create that atmosphere that it feels repetitive. This scheme feels like a reach for attention and a way to become relevant. I am sorry Mr. Peanut, but I will not be watching your funeral.