Media Moves and News

Coverage: Good grief, MetLife fires Snoopy

October 21, 2016

Posted by Chris Roush

Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 4.25.36 PMMetLife Inc. announced Thursday that it will no longer use the cartoon characters from the Peanuts strip in its advertising and marketing, saying it wanted a more modern design in how it attracts customers.

Christine Hauser and Sapna Maheshwari of the New York Times had the news:

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.

MetLife, one of the largest insurance companies in the world with 100 million customers worldwide, said the move is part of an effort to update its corporate emblem for international competition.

The global chief marketing officer for MetLife, Esther Lee, announced the change on Thursday, saying that Snoopy was adopted as a symbol in 1985 to make the company seem “more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant.”

“We have great respect for these iconic characters,” Ms. Lee said in the announcement. “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.”

The company said it wanted a “clean, modern” design that included the colors blue and green to “represent life, renewal and energy.” They form what the company has called “the partnership M.” The broader MetLife brand palette was expanded to include a range of vibrant secondary colors, reflecting “the diverse lives of its customers,” a company statement said.

Leslie Scism of The Wall Street Journal reports the decision is tied to the company’s spinoff of its life insurance business:

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. It also has a large international life-insurance business.

“We knew with all the transformation going on we needed to rethink how we went to market and how we presented our brand,” MetLife Chief Executive Steven Kandarian said in an interview.

The company’s new logo will feature the MetLife name in a slightly different typeface and in black not blue, accompanied by a new blue and green “M” symbol. Its new tagline: “MetLife: Navigating life together,” will replace “MetLife. I can do this.”

MetLife has a multiyear contract to use Snoopy and other Peanuts’ characters, on terms that aren’t publicly disclosed. People familiar with the matter said the most-recent contract was signed in 2014 and costs MetLife $10 million to $15 million a year.

Adiranne Pasquarelli of AdAge said the switch also comes with a new tagline:

Instead, the insurance firm is opting for a more simple identity, with a new logo and the tagline “MetLife. Navigating life together.” MetLife had been using the Peanuts characters in its branding for more than three decades, but it was time for a change, according to Esther Lee, who joined the company as global chief marketing officer two years ago from AT&T. She noted that the brand first turned to Snoopy in 1985 as a way of making MetLife relatable and fun for consumers, who felt alienated by the cold harshness of the insurance industry.

“Now, 31 years later, being friendly and approachable isn’t enough,” said Ms. Lee. “What [consumers] are looking for, from a company like ours, is a partnership to really help them navigate some of these important times in their lives.” In addition, she noted that more than 1,000 other companies use the Peanuts characters in some capacity, so their value is diluted from a branding perspective. MetLife found, through customer research, that few associate Snoopy with its brand.

The new branding push is the first comprehensive rebranding for MetLife in 30 years. It also comes amid other changes. Earlier this year, MetLife announced it would be spinning off its U.S. retail business into a new offering, called Brighthouse Financial.

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