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Are Sneakers by Planters Peanuts Just a Nutty Move?

The following is a collaboration between TopRight intern and queen of marketing copy Odera Agbim—founder of the marketing and photography company Spotlight—and Dave Sutton, founder and CEO of TopRight.

Has Mr. Peanut gone bananas? On June 18, Planters Peanuts released a limited-edition blue leather basketball sneaker called the Crunch Force 1. You might wonder why Planters, a snack food company, would be interested in releasing a shoe. You’re not alone.

Tons of companies use brand extension as a marketing strategy. However, a snack company producing a shoe could be a bridge too far for consumers.

Brand extension works well when the new product is a logical fit and aligns with the values of the parent brand. The established brand can and should supply the new product with a natural and competitive edge, not a reason for consumers to laugh derisively (often the case, unfortunately). When the extension doesn’t make sense to consumers there tends to be a visceral response, followed by outright rejection and radio silence.

It seems to be a bit more complicated with Planters, however. Was this a for-real brand extension? Where was there any strategy? Will we see people wearing Crunch Force 1 shoes any time soon? If not, what was the point?

Actually, Everyone Is Nuts for Shoes

As it happens, many brands these days are using sneakers to expand their reach into new consumer audiences and grow their businesses. Sneaker collaborations are happening more frequently than you’d think, with brands like Dunkin Donuts partnering with Saucony to create a shoe for the Boston Marathon, New York’s Cronut King Dominique Ansel partnering with Koio to create a croissant themed shoe, and Pizza Hut partnering with Shoe Surgeon.

Companies seem to be viewing sneakers as a great marketing tool that can spark interest in their brand while also engaging a markedly younger demographic. In light of this, it’s really no surprise that Planters, an old-timey legacy brand, would follow suit.

Targeting sneakerheads—i.e., young and vocal sneaker enthusiasts—is a great way for these companies to generate a buzz around their brands. But buzz and excitement don’t always result in sales. And millennial sneakerheads, as per their reputation as savvy consumers who are suspicious of marketing tactics, are becoming more wary of brands trying to target them.

Planters might have been able to mitigate some skepticism about the shoe if they had created a joint venture, partnering with an established shoe brand like those mentioned above. The decision to produce a shoe on the strength of their brand name alone weakened an already weak strategy.

To Brand Extend or Not to Brand Extend …

So, what went wrong here?

Firstly, there has to be an authentic impulse at the heart of any marketing strategy, and sneaker collaborations are not exempt. If there’s no clear story to support the collaboration, consumers will resent it and view the offering as nothing more than a decision to try to make a quick buck.

A successful brand extension requires companies to assess the brand and what it really means to consumers. They must also assess whether the new venture is a logical fit and whether the brand story communicated will be validated by their audience. A brand extension strategy is a great opportunity for established brands like Planters to diversify their business and increase profit, but only if the right elements of story and authenticity line up just right. But it’s not at all clear to me that Planters had the right alchemy in this case.

In a Nutshell 

Almost 84% percent of brand extensions fail. In order to be successful, the brand must have high brand equity in the category, and there must be a strong association between the parent brand and the new product. Though Planters Peanuts is an established brand with high brand equity, snack foods don’t correlate to basketball shoes in the minds of consumers. Without a strong brand story to support the decision to branch out into the shoe industry, the most Planters has done is make us wonder whether Planters Peanuts’ days are numbered.

We’re interested in hearing your thoughts behind Planters new shoe. Give us a shout and let us know what you think they wanted to accomplish with the launch of the Crunch Force 1 sneakers. And if you want more cool insights, subscribe to the TopRight blog follow us on LinkedIn, or buy a copy of Marketing, Interrupted.