Commentary

Snoopy Has Flown His Last Flight For MetLife

After more than three decades as MetLife’s spokespooch, Snoopy has been grounded as the brand is “moving away from a traditional product-development model to one driven by customer insights,” says CEO Steve Kandarian.

“No more big-nosed beagle in the flight cap and goggles chasing the Red Baron on Metlife’s airship. No more television commercials featuring a smiling Snoopy navigating life’s treacherous waters to sell insurance. Cuddly Snoopy hitting a home run? Out,” write Christine Hauser and Sapna Maheshwari for the New York Times.

“Created by cartoonist Charles Schulz,” the Wall Street Journal’s  Leslie Scism writes, Snoopy “now appears on everything from MetLife blimps to the company’s marketing and sales materials. But that need to reach consumers will shrink when MetLife spins off the bulk of its U.S. life-insurance business in the first half of 2017. Afterward, MetLife will sell mostly to corporate clients in the U.S., including life, dental and other insurance to employers for their workers, as well as annuities to pension plans.”

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MetLife said in July that the U.S. retail unit it’s spinning off will be called Brighthouse Financial — a name that “embodies promise to consumers.” It filed a registration statement with the SEC earlier this month but no date has been set for the separation.

A blue and green stylized ‘M’ will now serve as the MetLife’s logo in the flying ace’s (and would-be novelist’s) stead as part of a global rebranding effort unveiled yesterday. The new tagline — MetLife.Navigating life together” — is evident on the Web site today. The  company says “substantial changes to its customer experiences … will ultimately impact all customer touch-points from the Web site to customer service to its sales process to ensure a more focused, simplified interaction.”

Not that Snoopy didn’t perform his duties admirably when the world was less overwhelming even if “insurance companies were seen as cold and distant,” says Esther Lee, global chief marketing officer of MetLife, in a statement announcing the brand platform that will roll out globally through 2017 after the company interviewed more than 55,000 customers. 

“Snoopy helped drive our business and served an important role at the time. 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,” she said.

Print ads appear in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Washington Post this morning; new broadcast ads will break in December. 

“The new look was created by agency and brand consultancy Prophet, which was heavily involved in helping MetLife redefine its overall brand strategy late last year, a move that helped trigger the decision to rebrand. It also gave the agency a leg up in the ensuing pitch process,” reports I-Hsien Sherwood for Campaign

“We had a very in-depth knowledge of the desired personality of the brand,” says Craig Stout, associate partner and creative director at Prophet. “We created a symbol that could tell that story — two pieces coming together creating a new monogram.”

“But the logo is just the central cog in an all-encompassing ‘design system’ that also includes a new color palette and strategies for typography, photography and illustration, Howard Pyle, SVP for customer experience and design at MetLife, tellsSherwood.

It is decidedly more contemporary.

“The people who grew up with Peanuts, who really feel that strong nostalgia, are not the majority of people MetLife is trying target,” Breagin Riley, a marketing professor at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, tellsThe Christian Science Monitor’s Ben Rosen. “The old way is just not working anymore for them.”

Charles Schultz’ gang of cartoon characters will endure in other advertisements, sponsorships and endorsements however.

“The Peanuts brand has more than 700 licensing agreements in about 100 countries, according to SEC filings,” reportsCNNMoney’s Jill Disis — including relationships with Hallmark, Warner Bros. and Target.

“Snoopy is still a terrific brand and is a character people know and have fond feelings for,” Timothy Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management tells Disis. 

That said, maybe he wasn’t the best choice to front an insurance company. 

“Snoopy is an endearing character, but it doesn't represent financial savvy,” Calkins suggests. “Nobody thinks of Snoopy and says, ‘That is a really sophisticated investor right there.’”

 
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