Zach Dirksen — Staff Writer
On January 22, America and the world at large mourned the untimely death of Mr. Peanut. Peanut, last seen travelling with his two presumed best friends, actor and convicted criminal Wesley Snipes, and television character actor Matt Walsh, shuffled off this mortal coil by way of falling from a cliff and being caught in a subsequent vehicle explosion.
On Super Bowl Sunday, weeks later, Mr. Peanut was resurrected. After sprouting up from his grave, thanks to a life-giving tear from the Kool-Aid Man, Mr. Peanut was reborn as Baby Nut, an honest-to-God abomination, set loose by Planters upon an unsuspecting world.
I do not like Baby Nut. For multiple reasons. I shall explain in the following.
Remember Baby Yoda? That little guy was really cute. After being introduced in The Mandalorian, Baby Yoda took the world by storm, spawning fan theories, memes, and an overnight marketing craze that fast-tracked Baby Yoda merch to store shelves at a record-setting rate. It is impossible to look at Baby Nut and not make a connection to Baby Yoda. After Disney’s newfound baby craze, why shouldn’t Kraft-Heinz get in on the action?
The second and more pressing reason I dislike Baby Nut is due to precedent. The death of Mr. Peanut not only sets a dangerous precedent for branding, but also enforces pre-existing brand trends. One such trend is the personified brand. Brands have had mascots for years, that’s nothing new. Tony the Tiger, Chester Cheetah, Mr. Clean, all more or less harmless. These mascots have adorned the labels of our favorite cereals, snack foods, and cleaning supplies for decades. They help us to recognize specific products and their smiling faces are contagious? How could we hate Lucky Charms? There’s a happy leprechaun on the box! Don’t you want to be a happy leprechaun?
In recent years, however, branding has changed. It started on Twitter, where branded accounts began to act less like commercials and more like people. Wendy’s would make fun of McDonalds. Arby’s would post fun little cardboard models. Sunny D would seemingly imply that it would imminently commit suicide. Wait, what? Was the popular children’s fake-orange juice drink really going there? Soon, every brand on Twitter became a corporate marketing ploy hiding behind the mask of a real person. A person so real it seemed to have the same problems as consumers.
Then, Mr. Peanut died of a car explosion. Brand mascots can now die. Mr. Peanut now seems just as human as any of us. After all, mascots don’t show age or injury, just minor aesthetic changes as times change. But Mr. Peanut was dead. And then, Baby Nut.
In the ultimate bait-and-switch, Planter’s Peanuts first tapped into the ever-present angst and moroseness of the young adult mind by killing their mascot, and then tapped into an equally ubiquitous love of comfort and cuteness that young adults also enjoy.
Manipulation has always been a staple of advertising. From insisting cocaine was a great way to calm your teething baby to a literal Baby Nut, rising from the grave like some sort of legume savior, ads have always and will always do what needs to be done to sell their product. But don’t be fooled by this trend of relatable, personified branding. Their bottom line hasn’t changed. What has changed is their target.
Young adults have become aware of the world’s problems. We see the effects of the current system, and some hope is lost. College has become more expensive, healthcare is a mess, and we’re all still waiting for that income to trickle down to the middle and working classes. Money isn’t easy to come by and choosing how to spend what little we have is difficult.
What we don’t need, in my opinion, is corporations and their marketing teams manipulating our uncertainty and unique perspective with relatable, personified schemes. They don’t see us as people, so why should we return the favor?
Death to Baby Nut.