Skippy Returns to TV in Comeback Bid

Hormel Foods Breaks Brand's First Campaign in More Than Five Years

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What would Annette Funicello think of this one: "Skippy Yippee!"

That is the new tagline for Skippy, the 82-year-old peanut butter brand once pitched by Ms. Funicello, and now seeking a comeback under a new owner and ad agency.

Hormel Foods Corp., which acquired the brand early last year from Unilever, studied the brand for months before picking the new tagline and strategy. The line is meant to put a new twist on an old sarcastic saying, "yippy skippy," which the urban dictionary defines as "anything that you have to do or something that doesn't sound fun."

But fun is exactly the tone that Hormel and its creative agency, BBDO Minneapolis, want to set for the brand, which Ms. Funicello, who died last year, pitched in the 1970s and 1980s, telling viewers that "It's hard to beat Skippy."

According to consumers, it has been pretty easy to beat Skippy in recent years. The brand has fallen far behind J.M. Smucker Co.'s Jif, whose leading variety controls 36% of the nearly $2 billion U.S. peanut butter category, according to IRI. That compares with 12% share for Skippy's top variety, according to IRI.

But Skippy has shown signs of life under Minnesota-based Hormel, whose total peanut-butter sales grew 1% in the 52 weeks ending Aug. 10 to $340 million, compared with the more than 4% declined suffered by the total category. Skippy's "natural" peanut butter variety is doing well, growing 4% to $86.5 million in sales and 4.4% share, according to IRI.

J.M. Smucker's peanut-butter business experienced a nearly 5% sales decline to $906 million, according to IRI.

Hormel is seeking to spur more growth with the new campaign, which marks Skippy's first ad campaign in more than five years. A TV ad will run in markets that are considered Skippy strongholds, including states in the nation's western, north central and northeast regions.

The spot (at top) features a factory worker separating "fun" peanuts -- which are sent into the peanut butter -- from not-so-fun peanuts, which are exiled to a boring office party. One of the voices in the spot belongs to Estelle Harris, known for playing George Costanza's mother on "Seinfeld."

The brand's website -- peanutbutter.com -- has been updated to include a "fun button" that will produce "a random expression of 'Yippee!' such as an animated GIF, short video, or sound effect," according to the brand, which is expected to add more digital campaign elements in coming months.

"Skippy has been this iconic band since this 1930s," said Mike Guanella, the brand's senior product manager "There is a bump we expect just by getting out and talking about it again."

After taking a deep dive into the brand, Hormel and BBDO found that "there was a very simple message that came across: that people love peanut butter and they see it as simple and fun," said Dawn Yemma, a BBDO creative director. "So our task was to go and find an idea that only Skippy could own that could reinvigorate the fun back into the brand."

And that tagline? "The old phrase was 'yippee skippy' … so we switched it," she said. "So if you are saying Skippy, then the reaction, is Yippee! -- you know, excited."

Time will tell if that's hard to beat.

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