The branch the trio cling to threatens to snap, so Mr. Peanut lets go — and good night, sweet snack.
The unexpected demise of Mr. Peanut is a marketing gimmick, of course, and boy, does it work. The very existence of this column is a sign of complete surrender to the corporate geniuses who dispatched, at the age of 104, a mascot who was basically a protein-packed brother to Mr. Monopoly.
Humanity’s first white flag to this arrived in the form of tweets. Many came from real, live, non-peanut people: “Will his body be … planted or roasted?” one mused. Many others, though, came from Mr. Peanut’s band of brothers — or is it brand?
“Always classy, always crunchy, always cleaned up nicely!” Mr. Clean offered mournfully.
“What? NO! We’re dropping a Reverse Card on this,” UNO, the card game, cried out.
Even PETA laid down a virtual rose for what it called “a splendid source of protein to vegans everywhere. ”
This was like “Toy Story,” only for corporate Twitter — the accounts assembled as a cast of characters, each one more powerful when surrounded by others than they could ever be alone. (A Mr. Potato Head solo movie? Pass. Put him next to Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Bo Peep, and you’ve got a blockbuster.)
Mr. Peanut might have perished alone as a sales ploy, but his buddies leaped in to save him — and now everyone, including the deceased, looks more vital than ever.
This week’s spot is a teaser for a “funeral” to take place during the Super Bowl proper, and Planters is urging everyone to attend. Imagine the Geico Gecko weeping over his fallen comrade’s grave just after the first quarter, when up from the ground springs the first sprout of Mr. Next-Gen Peanut.
The brands have created their own little world, and the rest of us just live in it.
This isn’t the world Mr. Peanut was made for.
At first he was a businessman, just like those who birthed him. Apparently his name is (alas, was!) Bartholomew Richard Fitzgerald-Smythe, which, well, just look at him. “The man, the monocle, the spats, the top hat,” proclaims the Planters website. A schoolboy’s original sketch of just, well, a peanut guy wasn’t enough. This nut-man was at the moment of his creation furnished — or garnished — with the trappings of a bona fide mini-magnate.
But here’s the thing: Even as the phrase “late-stage capitalism” has become a cliche to describe our experience of everyday life — and even as brands seep their sneaky way into all we see, do and eat — the experience is supposed to be seamless. This is the age of ambient corporatism, and the hope for any brand is that we’re so far gone we don’t even notice when it tries to close a sale.
The trick to self-promotion without self-immolation, at least on Twitter, is to play human — to make clear, for example, that there’s someone behind the MoonPie handle, riffing with company accounts that have similarly large followings, but also perhaps going a little crazy from spending his days selling a soft cookie sandwich. Brands: They’re just like you! Of course, it’s all dressing in a window to soullessness, but the point is not to be so obvious about it. And there’s nothing more obvious than Mr. Peanut.
The folks at Planters tried to humanize Mr. Peanut before they stopped his beating heart, back in 2010 — to make him out as a friend instead of a firm embodied. They called him, inexplicably, a “WingNut.” They gave him, somewhat more explicably, Robert Downey Jr.’s voice. They gave him also a diminutive buddy nut named Benson who idolized Mr. Peanut but did “not live in Mr. Peanut’s house.” This probably taught the Planters folks they could only go so far to convince the modern Everyman to identify with a legume decked out in a monocle, spats and top hat.
Mr. Peanut drips with plenty to which the woke vanguard of society today has grown allergic: maleness, dandyism and money, money, money.
The only solution that remained? Premeditated murder.
This is a coup for admen and -women everywhere. Even as Planters gives up on Mr. Peanut for not being human enough, they’ve managed to make him more human than ever before: forgoing the dreaded “rebranding” that trades out one old, disposable marketing symbol for another, and deciding instead on death — an end reserved only for the living.
The company has snatched victory from the nut-cracking jaws of defeat.
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