On Strips: Peanuts Promotions

By | Friday, July 31, 2015 1 comment
You might have heard that a new feature length Peanuts movie will be debut later this year. To my surprise, it actually looks pretty good from the trailer. It looks like they really managed to keep the spirit of Charles Schulz's original strips AND the early TV cartoons in tact, despite the computer animation and what I'm sure would've been a mountain of beaurocracy. And for the life of me, I can't figure how the hell Baba O'Reily works so damn well in that trailer! I mean, The Who didn't even exist until a decade and a half after Peanuts started, and the song was written five years after that. Plus, the whole thrust of the song is about drug-addled teenagers, not grade school kids with curiously adult bouts of ennui.

Anyway, with the movie coming up, it should surprise no one that we'll be seeing increased promotional material surrounding it. The billboards, TV commercials, and the like will be unsurprising to most people, I expect. But we're already seeing a lot of cross-promotion going on that I find interesting.

I first noticed it two or three weeks ago in Target. They had some new signage up directing customers to their discount area up front. And while neither the signage nor any of the items on sale featured Peanuts characters, the font being used was unmistakably based on Schulz's own lettering style. I expect that as we get closer to the movie's release date, we'll see more signage using that same font and, later the characters themselves.

There's also a slew of Peanuts reprints coming out. Fantagraphics, of course, has had those nice hardcover collections. Andrews McMeel has some new collections out that center on broad themes. Titan Comics has been re-issuing the paperbacks from the 1960s. Plus there's new material like the "Great American Adventure" series by Tom Brannon and the comic book series from Boom! Studios.

And then they're also announcing things like "Franklin Day", celebrating the anniversary of when Franklin was introduced as the first Black character into the strip. (I believe this to be more a matter of taking advantage of an opportunity than anything else. The strips being rerun in newspapers currently happen to be from 1968 and they've been running all of the Peanuts strips since Schulz's death as close to the original publication date as possible, only shifting a day or two to account for Sundays. That the Franklin sequence came up on the anniversary of his debut is no different than a Great Pumpkin sequence running on Halloween.)

This is really what good marketing is. They're queueing up a lot of different ideas in a wide variety of venues that slowly build up awareness. The Target one is particularly inspired, as I don't know that most people would recognize Schulz's lettering on sight, but see it as just a comic-y, fun font. But as soon as they add the Peanuts characters to it... BAM! Instant -- and retroactive -- recognition.

Things will certainly get more obvious as we get into October. Expect to see a lot of Peanuts costumes at Halloween, and probably a host of candies branded with the characters. If they're smart, Dolly Madison will be ALL OVER this, dusting off their old ads and/or getting new CG ones made up.

Peanuts holds a nearly, if not completely, unique spot in American culture. I mean, Schulz passed away fifteen years ago and they're still running his old strips in the newspaper! I don't think that any other cartoonist shares that distinction. Everyone knows Charlie Brown and Snoopy. But what we're seeing now is an effort to make those characters more top-of-mind for the public at large, so that when the movie comes out, people will have already been primed by indulging their nostalgia and will be eager to see something NEW with their old friends.

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Jim Shelley said...

I think Peanuts is one of those lines in the sand that separates newspapers and their (every dwindling) reader base. You can remove newer strips like Overboard or Boondocks without many eyebrows being raised, but if you try to take out Mary Worth or Peanuts, you get a lot of angry letters threatening to cancel the paper. I think Dear Abby and Crossword puzzles work this way as well.