Mr. Peanut has been the official mascot of Planters nuts for over a century, but the company just decided to kill him off like a soap opera character played by an actor who wants more money.
There’s a strong argument to be made that Mr. Peanut deserved to die—he’s a Gilded Age-era robber baron who advocates for the roasting, salting, and eating of his own kind. A ruthless cannibal doesn’t make a great mascot when you think about it, but it was a marketing stunt and not a principled stand that led to his demise.
The “news” broke yesterday with a post on Twitter, the preferred home for brands trying to be provocative.
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 pic.twitter.com/VFnEFod4Zp
— The Estate of Mr. Peanut (@MrPeanut) January 22, 2020
Along with this tweet—which garnered replies from plenty of other brand accounts—the company is airing a commercial before the Super Bowl that shows how he bit the dust. It stars Wesley Snipes and Veep‘s Matt Walsh as two dudes riding in some kind of Peanutmobile with Mr. Peanut driving.
When an armadillo comes into the road, Mr. Peanut swerves off a cliff and the trio ends up holding onto a branch for dear life. It can’t hold all of their weight, and Mr. Peanut makes the selfless decision to let go.
Apparently, Planters will air another commercial during the third quarter of the game, possibly Mr. Peanut’s funeral.
Will this actually make people buy more nuts? Who knows! But if the goal is to get more people talking about your brand, then the tens of thousands of likes and views the campaign is attracting along with articles like this are signs that it’s off to a great start.
Of course, killing off the character that’s synonymous with your brand feels like a long-term risk even if it does get you some short-term attention, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Peanut makes a miraculous return or if there’s a successor—Mrs. Peanut? Baby Peanut?—ready to take the reigns.