Was the Recent M&M’s Announcement Just a Stunt Leading Up to the Super Bowl?

In spite of Notification M&M’s made a statement this week – that the company will “indefinitely pause” from its spokespeople in favor of “beloved” actress Maya Rudolph – the truth is that they won’t actually go anywhere. anywhere.

“Rest assured, the characters are our permanent official spokespersons,” a company representative wrote in an email. While “M&M’s iconic characters are in fact spending time pursuing their other passions” ahead of the Super Bowl, in the big game its advertising tackles the issue, bringing “The characters return to their rightful place in the heart of the brand. “

Last year, it was clear that M&M evoked strong emotions. Modifications to the product itself caused minor controversy – candied chocolates have announced New fillings, like Caramel Cold Brew, remain essentially the same — but, when it comes to marketing, the brand has a knack for controversy. In particular, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has become one of M&M’s biggest haters, complaining about the company’s wakefulness on his nightly show.

To understand the latest developments in candygate, it can be helpful to go back to January 2022, when M&M’s rebranded its spokespersons with inclusivity in mind. Orange M&M hugs me anxiety disorders (an attempt to increase his current appeal to Gen Z, the company said at the time), and the former “glamorous” green M&M exchange your high heels for sensible sneakers.

Online feedback is overwhelming. Millennials and Zoomers, who had only ever known a world of provocative green M&Ms, jokingly asked the company to return the spokesperson to her physical form. Soon after, candy was dragged into the culture war. Mr. Carlson declared his preference for sexy green M&Ms, devoting a rebranding segment to his show, using the chyron “CONTINUED FINAL: DELICIOUS M&M COICES, FRESH” and “UNLIMITED CHECKLIST IS WE ALL DESERVE.”

“M&M won’t be satisfied until every cartoon character ends up being incredibly unattractive and completely androgynous,” Mr. Carlson said.

Since then, the cultural imprint of the candy mascot has only grown. In September, Mars introduced a brand new spokesperson, the purple M&M “designed to demonstrate acceptance and inclusion,” the company said in a statement. declare. She broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first female peanut M&M, but avoided Mr. Carlson’s wrath until this month, when Mars announced a limited edition pack of M&M contains only colors associated with its female characters (green, purple, and brown). “Woke M&M’s is back,” Mr. Carlson declared. Another Fox News Host speak Feminist-branded M&M packages will help China take over the world

Many have interpreted M&M’s recent decision to remove its spokespersons as having succumbed to Mr. Carlson’s criticisms. But the brand has other intentions: “We believe fans who have embraced the M&M’S brand’s purpose and refreshed characters released over the past year will be pleased,” an M&M representative wrote, refers to the upcoming Super Bowl, one of the advertising world’s most important events.

“The mistake M&Ms make is that they don’t own the story,” said Alex Center, who was previously a designer and brand strategist for Coca-Cola and has also done campaigns for New Balance. and Apple, said. “They don’t accept the ongoing conversation about their brand. They are trying to push it in a direction with a cheerful message of solidarity.”

Debbie Millman, co-founder and chair of the School of Visual Arts’ graduate program in branding, agreed that M&M’s handled the backlash to its rebrand poorly. grass. The suspension of speech, she said, would mean a return to inclusivity, even if it means taking the lead for its Super Bowl commercials.

“If they really believe in inclusivity, if they really believe in representation in these speakers, then they absolutely should know that it is going to be polarizing,” Ms. Millman said. “If they really want to make a change and support what they believe in, then they should have the backbone to stick with it.”

“Being culturally relevant is a good thing,” Mr. Center said of the situation M&M’s is in. The company should explicitly embrace its position on the front lines of the culture war, he continued, using the moment to mock itself.

But the response reflects a broader trend that established brands are trying and often failing to connect with a new audience of socially conscious young people.

Mrs. Millman compares the failure of M&M to Nike campaign with Colin Kaepernick in 2018. “When that relationship was first announced, people ran over their Nike sneakers, burned them, and destroyed them. People think Nike made a mistake,” she said. “Three months later, Nike’s market share has increased. Brands now have to take risks if they want to make a meaningful connection with their ingredients.”

Older brands have a hard time connecting with young people, especially when their ad campaigns address social justice issues. In 2019, Burger King introduce An alternative “mood meal” line exists in opposition to Happy Meals (e.g. “Blue Meal”, “DGAF Meal”, “Yaaas Meal”) in a campaign tied to recognition mental health awareness. Pepsi also entered the same field with an advertisement featuring model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner in which she giving a police officer a can of Pepsi while participating in a protest.

“It is a difficult and dangerous position for brands to use the very real, very human challenges that face our society, to put that into advertising and marketing,” said Center. your marketing and put your brand in the middle of it. “People, especially young people, are extremely astute and extremely aware that that’s what’s happening.”

Center believes that younger companies and organizations that don’t have an easy search history can better connect with young people.

Advertising tends to be most effective when brands communicate their values ​​rather than what they think younger consumers want to hear.

M&M’s has yet to do that, but the company seems to be responding to all this attention with an upcoming Super Bowl commercial. Consumers will just have to wait and see.


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