Published on: November 15, 2016by Michael Sansolo
On the oft chance you were looking for one more sign that we have a massive generational divide among our consumers, forget about the election, the subsequent protests, tattoos, coffee bars or anything else.
Think about Snoopy.
There was a time the incredibly talented cartoon beagle was as beloved a character as existed in popular culture. At its peak, "Peanuts," the comic strip that gave us Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and, of course, Snoopy, ran in 2,600 newspapers, reaching a worldwide audience of more than 350 million people.
The "Peanuts" television specials were widely hailed, awarded and watched annually at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Halloween. We all knew the music Schroeder pounded out on his toy piano, we knew Linus’ speech on the meaning of Christmas and we knew Charlie would never kick that football.
Or at least we knew that if we were of a certain age. You might or might not know that no new "Peanuts" strip has run since February 2000 when Charles Schulz retired from the 50-year grind of drawing the strip. (Remarkably, he then died one day before the final strip appeared.) Although many newspapers still run "Peanuts" daily, using strips drawn 30 and 40 years ago, its era of dominance has long passed.
Here’s one clear sign of that shift: MetLife insurance recently announced it was dropping the "Peanuts" gang from its marketing campaign in 2017 after a 31-year run. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, the insurance giant realized that Snoopy and company had little to no appeal among Millennials and other young consumers because "Peanuts" was never really a part of their life.
Since those very consumers are MetLife’s main target market, it became time to move on. Adios, Snoopy and company.
In truth this isn’t going to matter much to most of us. I’ve never understood insurance advertising at all and can’t imagine why cartoon characters, geckos, cave men or big-haired women would cause me to buy a product designed to protect my car, home or family’s financial well-being. But the implications of MetLife’s decisions are important to all of us.
If nothing else it is a stark reminder that the cultural icons one group holds dear might mean little or nothing to others. (In a somewhat different context, this came up yesterday when Kevin wrote about the folks at Newman's Own having to wrestle with the idea that many young consumers have no idea who Paul Newman is. While this makes me shudder, I would refer them to "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," which has an excellent chapter about his Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.)
If we don’t constantly remember that we risk putting focus in all the wrong areas and in the process we can look woefully out of date and irrelevant to the very customers we hope to attract.
More than ever we are able to understand who our customers are and hopefully we are using that information to better communicate and serve their needs and values. We are endlessly tasked with focusing on the future and the changing realities of our world and our shoppers.
Anything less is as useless as the psychiatric advice Lucy dispensed for a nickel.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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