When it comes to brands, do you have a first love? I do—Snoopy, the world’s most beloved beagle. From a very early age, I’ve had a crush on Joe Cool and it’s never gone away. Actually, I identify with the entire Peanuts brand, most notably that blockhead Charlie Brown; although I did carry a blanket like Linus until the age of 10 when I accidentally left it in a hotel during a family vacation.
I was heartbroken, so my parents encouraged me to write to the hotel—and to Linus to see if he could help. (Secretly, I think they thought the letters might be good therapy and would help put an end to my misery.) Much to our surprise, Linus, a.k.a. Mr. Charles M. Schulz, wrote back to commiserate with my dilemma! Even more surprisingly, the hotel sent back my blanket. To this day, my parents swear that Schulz must have had something to do with the return of that blanket, as if he called the hotel and had Linus put in a good word for me.
That’s the kind of personal response that builds a lifetime of brand love and loyalty. The Hill family, and now the DeNuccio family (my married name), will always be devoted Peanuts fans. In fact, it goes beyond fandom. The Peanuts characters are like members of our family now.
For seven years, the Peanuts characters were also my clients. Talk about kismet! After growing up reading all the Peanuts books, performing in Peanuts plays, visiting Camp Snoopy, and dressing as Snoopy for Halloween, I had the privilege to work on the Peanuts PR team as its agency of record.
During those years, we handled all kinds of highly creative campaigns, which were usually designed by the internal Peanuts brand management team, led at the time by Helene Gordon, April Heeren and Melissa Menta. Sometimes the campaigns were targeted at a specific audience—as with the “Snoopy in Fashion Show,” through which we wanted to reach fashionistas around the country, and the “Peanuts Rocks the Vote Program,” where we aimed at reaching younger people to get out and vote. Sometimes the campaigns were more mainstream—as with our holiday programs, where we made sure there was a gift for everyone on Santa Snoopy’s list.
Snoopy also has many celebrity friends, and they worked with us on everything from photo ops and fashion shows to PSAs and music video productions. After a lifetime of trying to wrangle stars for PR campaigns, it was a joy to see the genuine enthusiasm for the Peanuts brand expressed by celebrities like Mariah Carey, Kristin Chenoweth, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Simon Pegg and Kelly Rutherford, among many others.
I’ve learned so much from my personal and professional experiences with the Peanuts gang that I thought I’d share some of the key lessons these campaigns taught me:
I know, it’s not every day you get to work for a brand that has actually added language to our national phrasebook—like “Good grief!” and “security blanket.” But this experience taught me, or brought home to me once again, the incalculable value of being able to find not only a link between a brand and people’s pocketbooks, but between the brand and people’s hearts.