Established in 1868, MetLife is a global provider of life insurance, annuities, employee benefits, and asset management. One of the largest in the world, MetLife serves approximately 100 million customers and has operations in nearly 50 countries. Last week, MetLife introduced a new identity designed by New York, NY-based Prophet and announced the end of its association with Snoopy and the Peanuts characters as a key element of its branding and advertising.
As the company moves in this new direction, it will phase out its use of 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 Lee. “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.”
More than the logo, the biggest change here is the retirement of Snoopy and crew. For 31 years, MetLife has licensed these characters from brand management company Iconix and the family of Charles Schulz to the tune of $12 million a year as estimated by Forbes; probably less back in the early 1980s. Used as a way to soften the coldness and harshness of life insurance, Snoopy danced his way around the logo for decades and along with the rest of the gang, created some memorable TV ads… lots of them. I understand why this relationship was set up but, to me, it never felt organic or intuitive — more like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Adults buy life insurance, not kids, and as charming as Snoopy is, there was a big disconnect between product offering/industry and the associations triggered by Snoopy. Plus, as more consumers are aware of product placement and brand sponsorship, this just felt increasingly like a cash-grab for the Peanuts brand management company and a louder dissonance of why Snoopy would be shilling for life insurance. In other words, I’m kind of glad this is ending.
MetLife’s new visual branding is built around a clean, modern aesthetic. The striking new brandmark brings contemporary blue and green colors together in a symbol of partnership to form an M for MetLife. The iconic MetLife blue carries forth the brand’s legacy, but has been brightened and now lives alongside a new color - green - which represents life, renewal and energy. The broader MetLife brand palette expands to include a range of vibrant secondary colors, reflecting the diverse lives of its customers.
The old logo was fine and it could have continued to be fine for another 30 years; maybe a little love from a type designer would have benefitted those “e”s but in general it was a decent wordmark. Perhaps without Snoopy, client and design firm, felt the wordmark was too naked and to further signal change decided to update it. The new wordmark comes in a rather harsh black that’s rare to see in an insurance company because, well, it feels harsh. The new typography is fine and not much of an improvement nor a decline — just another way to skin a cat. The one bad move was keeping the “L” so wide as it leaves a large gap that the old logo didn’t have. Instead of Snoopy there is now a vague, abstract “M” that’s also fine but doesn’t add anything of value or meaning to the company other than now it has a monogram, which is probably reason enough for it to exist. Execution-wise, it’s — and I’m sorry I keep using this word — fine, nothing to hate and nothing to love.
In application, the identity improves slightly with competent brochure covers and confident use of serif typography that contrasts nicely with the sans serif logo. The stock photography (on the covers and the website), though, feels so antiquated and mismatched that it almost makes you wish they would have at least used the Spotify duotone filter to unify the photographs because they are all over the place and give the brand an unfortunately generic vibe. The overall change hints at a move from being a consumer-friendly company to one that caters to corporations and medium businesses, looking more like a bank or financial institution which is the opposite end of the spectrum from what it was trying to do with Snoopy. Overall, it’s a drastic change that clearly signals that MetLife isn’t cuddly and approachable anymore which may be appropriate in setting expectations about what the insurance process is like but at the same time it now has nothing to differentiate it from the rest of the frustrating and impenetrable world of insurance which is as easy to understand as the “wah wah wah wah” of Miss Othmar.