Nerf’s first mascot Murph draws Gritty comparisons, sparks Twitter debate

    • Hasbro unveiled the first mascot for its Nerf brand as part of a new “Unleash the Play in You” platform, per details shared with Marketing Dive. The Martin Agency helped develop the concept.    
    • Called Murph, the entity is covered from head to toe in Nerf dart materials and is meant to personify playfulness. The announcement refers to Murph using they/them pronouns and describes them as a natural athlete skilled at activities like tossing a Nerf football or pulling off trick shots with one of its toy blasters.
    • Murph will appear across Nerf’s marketing, from social media to retail touchpoints, as part of a mulityear, always-on campaign. Introducing a mascot could bring more consistency to the Nerf brand but also provide a discussion point for consumers eager for a distraction.    

    If Hasbro’s goal in revealing Murph was to drum up online chatter, then mission accomplished. News of the oddball creation led to plenty of Twitter discourse over the weekend, with some observers alarmed by Murph’s amorphous qualities — and their adroit wielding of a toy blaster — and others appreciating the go-for-broke weirdness of the idea. Many comparisons were made to Gritty, the chaotic, muppet-like Philadelphia Flyers mascot that has won the internet’s approval and become a meme sensation since lacing up its skates in 2018.  

    Internet descriptors of Murph ranged from a person in a ghillie suit — an advanced form of camouflage frequently employed by the military — to a Bigfoot-esque cryptid coated in the toy marketer’s foam materials instead of fur. A TikTok video suggests the costume is comprised of 10,000 Nerf darts. Murph’s design also raised some existential questions: If they are made out of Nerf darts, are they firing their own organic matter out of the brand’s blasters?  

    These silly discussion points likely mark a win for Hasbro during a period where light-hearted news is hard to come by amid looming recessionary fears. A recent report from Oracle found that 45% of surveyed global consumers have not felt true happiness in over two years. Many people are looking to brands to deliver humor as a reprieve, but marketing often comes up short. Just one-fifth of brands report deploying humor in offline ads, while 18% did for online campaigns.

    Beyond generating some buzz as summer kicks off, Hasbro is setting up Murph to be a substantive part of Nerf’s positioning moving forward. The company has ramped up its activity on platforms like TikTok that are favored by Gen Z. Last year, Nerf looked to the video-sharing app’s vibrant creator community to appoint a temporary Chief TikTok Officer that could help iron out social strategy. Hasbro has also experimented more with e-commerce concepts like shoppable livestreams around the holidays

    It’s not hard to see Murph factoring into similar activations down the road or on channels like gaming and the metaverse that welcome vibrant cartoon mascots. However, the character is also meant to tout an active lifestyle and encourage taking a break from screen time, according to the announcement. 

    “The launch of Murph is a testament to the success of Hasbro’s Brand Blueprint strategy and turning NERF into the social, active play brand it is seen as today,” said Adam Kleinman, senior vice president and general manager of Nerf. “We are thrilled to introduce Murph to fans, a mascot that represents the playful spirit that lives inside us all and is unleashed through NERF.”



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