Is the M&M rebranding a savvy marketing strategy or a stand for ethical and moral values?
Do we need to dress up candies to match the latest trends? What’s the motive behind redesigning candy mascots? For the M&M’s six characters, it’s about embodying the modern, progressive values of inclusivity.
On January 20, 2022, the Mars candy company revealed their redesigned M&M mascots with new looks and nuanced personalities. In addition, the M&M’s themselves which come in yellow, red, orange, brown, blue and green colors will feature in a variety of shapes and sizes.
To promote inclusivity and self-expression, the M&M characters are “less stereotypically feminine.” The green M&M has swapped her iconic white-heeled go-go boots for “cool, laid-back sneakers to reflect her effortless confidence.” Known for her seductive poses and long lashes in advertisements, the green M&M has toned down the flirtatious elements to hand-on-hip pose and less dramatic lashes.
The feminist empowerment concept is also evident in the brown M&M who has traded stilettos for lower heels. While these changes are more noticeable, spotting design differences in the other M&M’s is like playing a game of I Spy. As People states, the red M&M and yellow M&M have donned laced shoes, and the orange M&M’s laces are tied. The M&M’s changed from peach skin color to a “more universal clearer hue.”
Additionally, the M&M’s have undergone personality updates. According to Today, “the orange M&M has officially acknowledged his anxiety and learned to ‘embrace his true self, worries and all.’” The green and brown M&M who were previously seen in a “catty relationship” are now more friendly and “together throwing shine and not shade.” The red M&M, according to NBC, will be kinder to the rest of the team members rather than act as a bully.
Further emphasizing gender-neutrality and belonging, the M&M characters dropped their prefixes such as the “Ms.” from Ms. Green and Ms. Brown to “focus on personalities, rather than gender” and “create a world where everyone feels they belong.
On the M&M website, the company states, “Our ambition is to upend the expected, break through barriers, and discover the little joys shared in everyday life. Imagine a world with less judgment & more connection & consistent laughter.” The M&M mascot update strives to make consumers feel like the company is up-to-date and relevant to the modern trends.
However, according to ABC, some marketers claim M&M is overthinking their branding, and the design missed the mark. The co-founder of marketing agency Metaforce, Allen Adamson, believes “the move to overhaul the character of the M&Ms is a good idea, but it’s just an example of how worried marketers are to offend consumers. Laura Reies, a marketing consultant, has a similar viewpoint, saying “They’re looking for some attention and trying to jump on the bandwagon of trying to be more inclusive. I don’t think there was an overall outcry of the overall sexualization of the M&M. It’s just an M&M.”
Twitter users agree with Adamson and Ries and criticized the redesign of M&M characters as “madness” and “laughable.” One Twitter user @JoshBoose jokingly commented, “How can I possibly eat M&Ms by the handful now knowing Orange has anxiety issues and Blue “just wants to be happy.” They all have “woke” bios now. Melting in my mouth and not in my hand wasn’t good enough?” Other users have jumped on the de-sexualization of the green M&M, outraged that the high-heeled boots were ditched.
While the M&M mascot shift has sparked quite a conversation among consumers, M&M is not the only company to hop on the latest trend of rebranding. During the 30th Anniversary of Disneyland Paris, Minnie Mouse revealed her new polka-dotted, purple jumpsuit in lieu of her classic, red and white polka dot dress which drew mixed reactions.
With major companies like M&M and Disney unveiling new refinements to their brands, this begs the question: Are candy and cartoon characters really such a social issue or another marketing gimmick?