Planters cleans up Mr. Peanut in brand refresh ahead of sale to Hormel

Dive Brief:

  • Planters last week announced a new campaign that includes a refurbishment of its brand mascot, Mr. Peanut, per an announcement emailed to Marketing Dive. Along with the makeover, the nut brand will re-emphasize its commitment to authenticity both in its product and the good deeds of its consumers through a series of spots.
  • “Sustenance,” the first 15-second spot highlighting the nourishing power of peanuts, reveals the new Mr. Peanut in a cleaner, more dapper form, replete with sharper graphics and an authoritative voice. The video ends with the tagline “A Nut Above,” referring to the brand’s yearlong campaign which aims to financially reward individuals who pay it forward through acts of “substance.”
  • The new refresh, helmed by VaynerMedia and JKR, arrives as Planters prepares to be sold by Kraft Heinz to Hormel, a deal that was announced earlier this year and is expected to close sometime in Q2. The focus of the new creative is consistent with Planters’ previous campaigns, which over the past year-plus have emphasized the evolution of Mr. Peanut, albeit to mixed reviews.

Dive Insight:

Planters’ new campaign is the brand’s latest effort to refresh its appearance in the eyes of consumers. Starting with “Sustenance” and proceeding with a series of like-minded spots through the year, Planters will focus its attention on the nutritious benefits of consuming peanuts, at a time when the U.S. plant-based food market is rapidly growing. The brand will supplement this new message by leveraging its storied heritage, a useful tactic for when legacy brands hope to instill trust in the quality and expertise of their product.

The creative will also build off of Planters’ previous campaign championing substance. Launched in February, when the U.S. was just coming out of its peak in daily COVID-related deaths, “A Nut Above” pledged to use the brand’s $5 million Super Bowl budget to instead reward the selfless acts of individuals. Similar efforts to redirect Super Bowl ad spend were seen by Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Ford and Hyundai. Planters’ initiative will continue rewarding acts of substance throughout the year, according to the announcement.

By giving a makeover to Mr. Peanut, who has been the face of the company for 105 years, Planters’ campaign makes a symbolic gesture to the brand’s evolution, while also engaging with consumers via a fresh avatar. This debonair version of the mascot — “substance with swagger,” according to the announcement — comes after a year-plus storyline following the death of Mr. Peanut in a pre-game Super Bowl spot in 2020. While the spot received significant positive chatter on social media, Planters ultimately chose to remove it in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death shortly after the campaign launch. Between the various other iterations Mr. Peanut assumed over the course of the year — from baby to Gen Zer to middle-aged adult — the spots received a mixed bag of reception, in one instance falling so flat that it inspired a petition to #BlockMrPeanut.

What’s different about the circumstances surrounding this campaign, however, is that the nut brand will soon begin a new chapter in its 115-year history, as it awaits the closing of its sale from Kraft Heinz to Hormel. The deal was announced almost six years after Kraft and Heinz merged to become one of the largest CPG companies in the world.

Shedding Planters from its portfolio was part of Kraft Heinz’s larger plan to save $2 billion in costs over five years. As the CPG giant continues to navigate its operations in the wake of the pandemic, it’s betting more on marketing, dabbling in a variety of creative stunts and refreshing its legacy offerings. As for Hormel, the food company is also trying its hand at flashier efforts, setting the record for most users in a virtual pizza party during Hormel Foods Spirit Week last September.