Mr. Peanut

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When people ask Peter Reiner's son who his dad works for, he has been known to answer matter of factly, "Mr. Peanut."

In fact, Mr. Reiner is employed by Nabisco Foods' Planters division as senior director of marketing, but no matter. His son's slight inaccuracy bears witness to the success Mr. Reiner, 39, has had over the past three years in building the Planters brand by building the ubiquity of its beloved Mr. Peanut icon.

Since 1996, the 87-year-old Mr. Peanut has appeared everywhere from Times Square to Nascar driver Dale Jarrett's race car with his signature cane, top hat and monocle. All the time, Mr. Reiner seeks to tell the story of how Planters snacks fit into the contemporary lifestyles of the 18-to-34-year-old set.

Advertising from FCB Worldwide, New York, has worked in tandem with Mr. Peanut's star appearances in modern settings, humorously depicting the icon as singularly representative of the snack in a variety of situations. The most recent in the ongoing campaign, "Terrier," features a dog on the beach who proves to three guys how much he wants the Planters nuts by carving Mr. Peanut into the sand.

"People asked, `Why don't you hip him up?' " Mr. Reiner says. "But the way we're contemporizing him is to put him into hip situations without taking away from his equity."

Whether he's on the beach, at the Super Bowl or part of the NCAA's March Madness, Mr. Peanut has succeeded in bringing new younger consumers into the fold for Planters, increasing frequency of purchase and household penetration, Mr. Reiner says. The brand has grown from $500 million in sales in 1995 to more than $800 million in 1999, the executive says.

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