Shot to the Nuts: Guest Post by Mara Cray and Becca Durante

On January 22nd, 2020, the official Planters Mr. Peanut Twitter account announced the death of the beloved Mr. Peanut, the iconic mascot of Planters Peanuts since 1916. A corresponding commercial featured the character’s death. The tone was darkly comedic, following an absurd series of events which ends in Mr. Peanut making the ultimate sacrifice.

This move was surprising, but it pushed Planters to the forefront of pop culture, flooding social media platforms (primarily Twitter) with the hashtag #RIPeanut. The company announced that Mr. Peanut’s funeral would air during the Super Bowl. Along with Mr. Clean, the Kool-Aid Man, and other mourners, America witnessed Baby Nut’s wondrous resurrection. Grief turned into joy as the wizened Mr. Peanut was reborn into a cherubic legume...who makes dolphin sounds...

Immediately after the ad aired, Planters launched an aggressive (many would say overly aggressive) social media campaign. This included a live stream of Baby Nut in his nursery.

Some loved Baby Nut, praising the miraculous rebirth of the beloved character. However, others expressed violent urges towards the cartoon infant. It was a derisive campaign, but in a delightfully satiric kind of way.

The campaign has also faced backlash for going severely overboard. In addition to selling Babynut merchandise, Planters was also forced to take down several Baby Nut meme accounts on Twitter after violating the platform's user agreement. However, the brand did exhibit some restraint. Planters put a halt on the campaign following the tragic death of NBA star Kobe Bryant. This was undoubtedly the right move since tongue-in-cheek grieving would not have played well next to the death of a beloved hero.

This polarized buzz will continue for Planters as long as they continue to publicize Baby Nut. While the campaign achieved massive engagement, Planters must understand their publics’ feelings towards this new mascot and plan their future communications strategy accordingly. Likewise, Planters must assess how these opinions impact their brand’s public perception.

As stated in Strategic Planning in Public Relations, public perception is a confluence of reputation and visibility, so it is important for organizations to understand what campaigns can do for their reputation (Smith 2017). For instance, the Baby Nut Campaign garnered thunderous exposure for the company, but this will not last forever. Eventually, the Baby Nut mania will fade away, and the visibility of Planters will fade with him. Case in point, the Twitter conversation around Baby Nut has all but silenced, despite the brand’s earnest efforts to keep the concept alive.

Since the Baby Nut campaign has limited longevity, it will be important for Planters to take steps to establish deeper connections with their publics. In order to remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds and maintain a positive reputation, Planters will need to launch more campaigns, either with or without Baby Nut in the future in order to foster those relationships, as well as maintain a positive reputation with the public.

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