Written by Amanda Mills | January 27, 2023
The Green M&M’s footwear change, which turned the candy’s iconic green boots into sneakers, sparked a backlash from some fans who felt it was a political move to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
The criticism was amplified by Fox News, which ran a segment on the change, calling it “the latest example of woke culture.”
Then, when M&M featured female M&M characters on its packaging for International Women’s Day, a small segment of fans again took to social media to express their discontent.
M&M’s, which is owned by Mars, Inc., has always been known for its playful and lighthearted approach to advertising. But the recent controversies have forced the company to take a more serious stance on the matter.
In a statement, M&M’s said it made the decision to put the characters on an “indefinite pause” because it wants to “focus on the chocolate and take a break from the characters.”
The company also announced that it will hand off spokesperson responsibilities to actress and comedian Maya Rudolph, who will star in its upcoming Super Bowl commercial.
Some experts believe that M&M’s move to hand off spokesperson responsibilities to Rudolph is a smart PR move.
“M&M’s is trying to regain control of the narrative by turning to a well-known and likable spokesperson,” said Jackie Kolek, a PR and branding expert. “Maya Rudolph is a great choice because she’s known for her comedic timing and ability to connect with audiences.”
But others argue that M&M’s decision to put the characters on an “indefinite pause” could backfire.
M&M’s, the popular chocolate candy brand, has recently made changes to its characters in an effort to make them more inclusive and relevant. In January 2022, the company changed Green’s go-go boots to sneakers and swapped out other characters’ shoes.
In September, the brand introduced Purple, a new female character. Recently, on Women’s Day, the company flipped the Ms in its logo upside down to look like Ws.
These changes have been met with criticism from some, particularly Fox News, who derisively labeled the brand as “woke” and complained about the characters’ new, less “sexy” look.
Tucker Carlson, a Fox News commentator, said, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing.”
The brand’s efforts to be more inclusive have also been met with criticism from publications such as the Washington Post, with one opinion piece declaring “the M&M’s changes aren’t progressive. Give Green her boots back.”
According to Calkins, a Northwestern professor, “What M&M’s has tried to do over the past few years is to be very inclusive, and to ensure that these characters represent in a positive way. They’ve been quite deliberate in their efforts to do that.”
It seems that M&M’s is trying to walk a fine line between being inclusive and not becoming a target for right-wing commentators. Calkins suggests that the brand had two options: back away from the characters or stand up and fight.
It remains to be seen if M&M’s will be able to successfully navigate this tricky situation and come out on top.
M&M’s announced a partnership with Maya Rudolph, alluding to the reaction to Green’s shoes. The company stated that they were not sure if anyone would notice the changes made to the spokescandies, but that they now understand that even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing.
While it is hard to measure the impact of the reaction to the character changes on sales, the brand has seen a “record-breaking amount of interest in and conversions about our spokescandies,” according to a spokesperson.
The deal with Rudolph had been in the works for a while and was not a knee-jerk move in response to the criticism.
The original cast of M&M’s spokescandies are currently pursuing other personal passions, and fans will learn more about their situation in the coming weeks, according to the brand.
Despite the controversy, experts believe that M&M’s strategy of taking the characters out of the spotlight is a good one, as it will give them a break and allow them to come back stronger later.
They also believe that this situation is low-stakes and inconsequential, and will ultimately be a net positive for the brand.
In addition to its traditional cand, M&M’s also offers a wide range of products, including chocolate bars, baking ingredients, and even clothing and accessories.
The brand has also expanded its offerings to include products such as M&M’s Premiums, which are made with higher-quality ingredients and come in unique flavors like espresso and raspberry.
One of the most recent developments of the brand is the partnership with Maya Rudolph, a famous actress, and comedian, who will star in an upcoming ad campaign during the game, the company announced the commercial back in December.
This partnership is a new step for the brand which is looking to reach new audiences and make a statement in the industry.
In recent years, M&M’s has also focused on sustainability, implementing initiatives such as using sustainable cocoa, reducing packaging waste, and supporting farmers in its supply chain.
Despite the challenges it has faced, M&M continues to be a popular and beloved brand, with a strong following of dedicated fans.
With its wide range of products, commitment to sustainability, and iconic advertising campaign, M&M’s is poised to remain a favorite among candy lovers for years to come.
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