On Strips: Bye, Snoopy!

By | Friday, October 21, 2016 3 comments
MetLife announced yesterday that, after 31 years, they're retiring Snoopy as their corporate mascot. Part of MetLife's statement reads...
"We brought in Snoopy over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant. Snoopy helped drive our business and served an important role at the time," said Lee. "We have great respect for these iconic characters. However, as we focus on our future, it's important that we associate our brand directly with the work we do and the partnership we have with our customers."
The announcement spends a lot of time trying to emphasize this forward-looking approach.

"...change is happening faster than ever before."

"...upend the long-entrenched norms..."

"...reflect the modern company we're becoming..."

"...clean, modern aesthetic."

"...represents life, renewal and energy."

It's actually more surprising to me that they've kept Snoopy around as long as they have than that they're changing. Even among traditionally slow-moving corporations like insurance companies, keeping a consistent brand identity for over three decades is pretty incredible. And if their intent is to project a more future-oriented company, it makes sense to leave Snoopy behind. After all, Charles Schulz has been gone for 16 years now and, while there are technically still new comics and movies being produced, I think most people still associate the characters with either a comic strip that has been in reruns for a decade and a half and/or the holiday TV specials from the 1960s. Hardly an image of progressiveness.

Obviously, it's too early to tell if MetLife's new branding will be seen as successful. I think the new logo is fine, I suppose, but I don't know that it really differentiates them in the market, as their press release states. It could just as easily be the logo of a publisher, a pharmaceutical company, a piece of software, or a contemporary furniture shop. Using a comic character was at least unique in the insurance industry. Although, I suppose if they kept the idea of a comic character but went in a more "future-focus" direction, we'd be saddled with some shit like Poochie.

I can't find any precise numbers, but I suspect this was one of Peanuts Worldwide, LLC's second most profitable licensing deals over the years, behind perhaps Hallmark. They'll almost certainly take a short-term hit financially, but there's a more than reasonable chance that they'll pick up something equally lucrative soon. Fortunately, they've got a nice influx from the recent Peanuts movie that will help tide things over for a bit.
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Not at all a surprise--I agree with you, Sean, it's surprising they stuck with Peanuts as long as they did--but the corporate wheels turn, and inevitably someone demands a "fresh face." Funny thing is, Snoopy gave their brand identity the only real personality it had, and the new branding approach, at least as reflected in the site and logo, makes it look just like every other humdrum business out there. I understand where they're coming from, but at the same time, I think they're worse for it.

Unknown said...

You mention what a profitable licensing deal this was.
Schulz is regularly in the top five of Forbes' annual
list of Top Earning Dead Celebrities.
Wonder how far this will drop him down on that list.

Phil said...

Insurance companies have the worst ads. I'm sure Peanuts fans who watch the Great Pumpkin and the Xmas special won't worry too much.