Planters Peanuts killed its iconic Mr. Peanut character a few weeks ago and planned his funeral as its Super Bowl commercial. If you didn’t catch what happened, Mr. Peanut has a car crash and then sacrifices himself, so his friends can live. That idea is now backfiring with the recent death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and eight other victims that died in a helicopter crash.
There’s a lot being written about the unfortunate timing and as of this writing Planters still plans to go forward with its Super Bowl spot, which is more publicity stunt that real brand strategy.
Aside from the controversy and bad timing, the Planters situation makes me think about a different question. Isn’t there something else that the brand could have done to get consumers engaged with the brand versus throwing a desperation “Hail Mary” pass in the Super Bowl? Were they so desperate for an idea that they had to resort to death in an attempt to breathe some life into a pretty boring brand?
When it comes to the Super Bowl you don’t want your campaign to be too vanilla and run the risk of being ignored but going big also means running the risk of having a big flop. I’m all in favor of taking creative risks however in this case it feels like the brand couldn’t come up with anything short of a dramatic publicity stunt to generate some engagement. It seems desperate and sad, and while funerals are sad occasions, I’m sadder about the death of innovative ideas from Planters than I am about Mr. Peanut.