Personification of brands has gone too far

Kevin Leon

Brands have increasingly used social media to come off as more personal and in tune with today’s zeitgeist. Accounts like Wendy’s, or in a recent case Planters, have used Twitter to tweet jokes using many of the memetic formats that gain popularity seemingly every few days.

In the past week, Planters decided to kill off their mascot Mr. Peanut, without much reason other than to create a spectacle. After his “death” was announced, the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s death caused Planters to pivot away from actually killing off the peanut man. Instead, he has been re-branded as “Baby Nut” in a blatant attempt to capitalize on the recent hot media trend of babies.

2019’s “The Mandalorian,” a new Star Wars series, introduced a character known as Baby Yoda. He quickly be-came a beloved character due to his cute, yet old, looks. Other babies had come before, sure. There was the Boss Baby and Baby Groot, but neither had what Baby Yoda has: familiarity and nostalgia. Those two made Baby Yoda the cultural force that it is.

So, seeing a snack brand shamelessly try their marketing hands at the now-mainstream baby fever is exhausting. Mr. Peanut is one of those mascots that exists, and people know it exists, but no one ever actually cared about. He’s a peanut with a top hat and a monocle. There’s nothing to like. So why would they think baby-fying it would make people connect with it more? The personification of brands online has gone too far. Wendy’s is arguably one of the pioneers of this kind of brand-consumer engagement, with their “clapbacks” at Twitter users who say something negative about them. It’s easy to understand why brands doing this doesn’t sit right with some people. They are ultimately just trying to sell you something. It’s the obvious, faux-personality pitching of a product that makes these brands annoying.

Recently, even the state of New Jersey has gotten a Twitter account to do this kind of engagement. The difference here, though, is that at least New Jersey isn’t trying to sell you burgers or peanuts. This absence of entrepreneurship makes them more tolerable. The thing that kept Baby Yoda from this pitfall (‘cause if we’re honest, Baby Yoda is Disney trying to sell us some-thing too) is that the character has a reason to exist. There is a role for him. People already had an understanding of regular Yoda. There is no such prior sentiment for a Peanut baby.

Couple in the fact that the Twitter account was already unamus-ing. That they killed off a peanut for attention. That Mr. Peanut isn’t even a good mascot design.

The worst part is that much like any other issue, there are people on both sides. There are people who like this. Who have found it amusing. They exist somewhere. I’m sure @mrpeanut’s 114k followers aren’t all bots. That’s more unsettling.