Lessons About Branding from IHOB and Mr. Peanut

Unless you’ve been unplugged or hiding under a rock, chances are you’ve heard about the death of Mr. Peanut. And chances are you probably didn’t care about him while he was alive, but you have thoughts about his death. If that’s the case, you’re definitely not alone.

Mr. Peanut, the 104-year-old Planters company mascot, has died after a traumatic road accident. Ads started running ahead of the Superbowl, but were paused in the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death in January. The announcement was made in news release as well as a series of tweets. The company confirmed his death is related to a commercial that aired during the Superbowl. That’s not the point….the point is that within an hour of the announcement on Twitter, #RIPPeanut was trending, and the buzz continued to grow.

How quickly the internet erupted is quite reminiscent of the 2018 IHOP campaign to change their name to IHOb, as it was also announced in a tweet. Initially, there was a great deal of speculation about what the “b” would stand for – with many people thinking “breakfast.” However, when they announced that it would stand for the International House of Burgers, social commentary started flying again.

Though the IHOb approach didn’t go over well on the ad awards circuit, it was a definite home run in terms of PR and marketing. Simply changing the P to a B had everyone, even late-night talk shows, discussing the brand.

Two Different Agencies – Similar Campaigns

The IHOb campaign was handled by Droga5, and the #RIPeanut was developed by VaynerMedia, but the reaction the campaigns received is highly similar. The major reason for this is the fact that both of them are iconic brands that are being disrupted. Doing so brings passion to the surface – a passion for the brands that most people don’t even realize they had.

What Can You Take From This?

Avoid Temptation to Speak About the Permanence

It’s crucial to remain quiet about how permanent your decision is – like renaming your restaurant or killing off the mascot you’ve had for more than 100 years. That silence is one of the most important parts of letting your audience start the conversation and let it go viral. If you try too hard to dictate the conversation, you won’t get the positive results you’re hoping for.

It’s not an easy thing to do. You will watch people debate the campaign, tear into pieces, make fun of it, and ultimately, misunderstanding it. While it’s tempting to jump in and defend it, you can’t. You want to make sure the world knows you were aware of the risk, but that you also knew what you were doing.

As we saw with the #RIPeanut, Kool-Aid man’s tears caused the peanut plant to grow, and now Mr. Peanut is alive again as a baby peanut, with #babynut.

Create Engaging Stories While Watching the Metrics

During an era where topics can trend only for a matter of minutes before they fall again, it can be quite difficult to maintain that high level of conversation. That’s why you need to pay close attention to your social analytics to determine when the conversation starts to get quiet. Then, look for ways to get it back in the spotlight.

By monitoring your social analytics, it’s easier to see when the conversation peaks and when it’s starting to come down. If you wait another day, the conversation is done. Actively listening on social is a large part of a successful viral social campaign.

The biggest lesson, however, is that brands and agencies must be willing to take risks and look for fun ways to put their names and products into everyday conversation – even it if means letting things get a little funky.

Many people treat major brand mascots as something sacred. You’ll have more room than you might realize to play with that stuff and have fun doing it, so long as you’re working to service the greater good. It’s more important now than ever before to have a story that makes people want to talk about it. Doing things people are talking about makes your brand feel more innovative and current.

SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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