MetLife is cutting ties with Snoopy after 31 years

Headed to the unemployment line.
Headed to the unemployment line.
Image: AP Images for MetLife, Inc./Jim R. Bounds
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After more than three decades on the job at MetLife, Snoopy is getting the axe.

The whimsical beagle created by Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, who died in 2000 at the age of 77,  is being phased out of MetLife’s marketing and sales materials, from blimps to the company’s annual report, the Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported today (Oct. 20). Snoopy has lived with MetLife since 1985; Schulz is said to have earned between $30 million and $40 million a year overall from his Peanuts work. He passed away a day after his last Sunday strip appeared.

MetLife is shifting away from its consumer-driven US life-insurance business and no longer needs the Peanuts character to make itself seem more approachable. The company revealed earlier this month that it planned to spin off the bulk of its US life-insurance business in 2017, to concentrate on selling products—including life, dental, and other insurance plans—directly to employers for their benefits programs. It also sells pension programs and annuities, and has a life-insurance business abroad.

Starting next year, MetLife will reportedly stop contracting blimps to float over outdoor events including golf tournaments and football games, and slash other efforts aimed at consumers that featured Snoopy and the Peanuts gang.

“We brought in Snoopy over 30 years ago to make our company more friendly and approachable during a time when insurance companies were seen as cold and distant. Snoopy helped drive our business and served an important role at the time,” said Esther Lee, global chief marketing officer at MetLife, in a statement. “We have great respect for these iconic characters. 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.”

MetLife reportedly has a multi-year contract to use Snoopy and other Peanuts’ characters that’s estimated to cost $10 million to $15 million per year. The terms are not public, the Wall Street Journal noted.

MetLife has notified the company that licenses the Peanuts characters, Iconix Brand Group, about the move, but said it will take time to phase Snoopy out of all its materials. The company did not say how long.

“For over 30 years, the Peanuts characters have helped MetLife customers relate to what often can be considered complex life decisions in a humorous and thoughtful way,” Iconix said in a statement. “As this historical partnership winds down, we’re confident that other opportunities will present themselves.”

MetLife logo
Image: MetLife

Today, MetLife introduced a new brand platform that’s cleaner and a little more grown up. The logo, which uses a slightly different typeface and color scheme, emphasizes the “M” in MetLife with a blue and green symbol that appears alongside the company’s name. The tagline: “MetLife. Navigating life together.”

The new branding will roll out around the world in 2017, the company said.

Update (12:15pm ET): This post was updated to include a statement from Iconix Brand Group, which could not immediately be reached at the time the article was first published, as well as an image of MetLife’s new logo.