Why did M&M’s drop their ‘Woke’ mascots?

Why did M&M’s drop their ‘Woke’ mascots?

SUBWAY&M’s says it’s ditching its colorful candy mascots because they’re too “polarizing” for Americans to handle these days.

The ubiquitous chocolate characters, who have been the face of M&M’s for years, said nothing controversial. But they became the focus of a partisan backlash after the brand, owned by Mars Inc., made a series of stylistic tweaks to its cast of “spokescandies” last year to be more inclusive. Right-wing commentators began to criticize the campaign, and Fox News host Tucker Carlson spent time during several segments denouncing the popular candy like “Woke M&M’s.”

Now the brand is moving in a new direction, the company said in an announcement posted on social media. Spokescandies are on “an indefinite hiatus” and actress Maya Rudolph is set to become the new face of M&M’s, someone the brand said “America can agree on.”

But the decision to put the iconic mascots on temporary hiatus drew criticism from fans and brand experts alike. some too disputed if it had all been an elaborate stunt to cash in on a low-stakes Internet controversy.

“What M&M’s is showing is that it will backtrack on what it stands for if it gets a lot of negative reviews,” says Deb Gabor, chief executive of Sol Marketing, a branding agency. “It is increasingly important for people to know what brands stand for when they offer their support.”

The M&M controversy could serve as a lesson for other brands.

“There’s an old saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” says Steven Fink, crisis consultant and author of Crisis Communications: The Definitive Guide to Managing Your Message. “I suggest that you take a permanent break. They should go back to doing what they were doing before because no one paid attention to it until they started this nonsense, unless the new characters have increased their sales.”

That’s how we got here.

‘Even the shoes of a candy can become polarized’

It turns out that not everyone can agree on what kind of shoes an M&M cartoon character should wear.

M&M's became the focus of a partisan backlash after the brand made a series of stylistic tweaks to its cast of

M&M’s became the focus of a partisan backlash after the brand made a series of stylistic tweaks to its cast of “spokescandies” last year.

Courtesy of M&M’s

In January 2022, the brand replaced M&M’s green knee-high boots with flats and swapped out brown M&M’s stilettos for lower heels. He also announced that the orange M&M would accept his anxiety; he was even beginning to tie his shoelaces, moves that many celebrated as more progressive.

But others saw the renewal as an affront.

“M&M’s won’t be satisfied until the latest cartoon character is profoundly unsexy and utterly androgynous until such time as you don’t want to have a drink with any of them.” Carlson commented in fox. “That is the goal. When you’re totally offline, we’ve achieved fairness. They have won.

M&M’s addressed cosmetic adjustments in a statement on Monday, telling fans that he didn’t expect people to notice the initial changes. “We definitely didn’t think it would break the internet,” the brand said. “But now we get it, even a candy shoe can be polarizing.”

‘Uplifting and Empowering Women’

Chocolate candies generated more buzz in right-wing circles this month after M&M’s introduced a new purple character to its roster and added it to a limited-edition female character brand pack meant to “celebrate women everywhere.” that they are changing the status quote”. Mars, Inc. said that a portion of the proceeds would go to organizations that “encourage and empower women,” including She Is The Music and We Are Moving the Needle, two nonprofits that support women in music. music industry.

“Woke M&M’s is back,” Carlson declared on his show in mid-January. “The green M&M got her boots back, but apparently she’s a lesbian now, maybe, and there’s also a plus-size obese purple M&M. So we’re going to cover that, of course. Because that’s what we do.”

The original red and yellow M&M's, both masculine, have been used in the brand's advertising campaigns since 1954. A purple feminine M&M was added in 2022.  (Courtesy of M&M's)

The original red and yellow M&M’s, both masculine, have been used in the brand’s advertising campaigns since 1954. A purple feminine M&M was added in 2022.

Courtesy of M&M’s

Mars, Inc. has not specified the sexual orientation of the green M&M, while the purple M&M appears to be the shape of its peanut-flavored candies, which are usually larger, like the original yellow character.

More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition to “Keep Green M&Ms Sexy.”

Other right-wing figures also weighed in on the drama. One even claimed that the attempt to include the brand emboldens China.

“If this is what you need for validation, an M&M that is the color that you think is associated with feminism, then I’m worried about you,” Fox News host Martha MacCallum said. he said earlier this month. “I think that makes China say, ‘Oh, good, keep focusing on that. Keep focusing on giving people their own colored M&Ms as we take care of all the mineral deposits around the world.’”

“When I eat a bag of M&Ms, do I ask myself which color and shape best represent my identity? No, because it’s fucking chocolate,” said Fox News host Greg Gutfeld in January 2022. “If you really want an M&M to feel like it belongs, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. I mean, what kind of message does it send to children when you devour these non-binary bonbons?

M&M’s response

In response, the brand said Monday that the polarized reaction to the rebrand was “the last thing M&M’s wanted,” emphasizing its focus on bringing people together. “Therefore, we have decided to take an indefinite hiatus from sweet spokespersons.”

The mascots had been used in the brand’s advertising campaigns since 1954. Older M&M commercials featured red and yellow, standing for regular and peanut M&Ms. New characters and colors joined the team in the 1990s.

Rudolph, the new spokesperson for M&M’s, will represent the brand in a Super Bowl ad on February 12, the actress announced on Monday’s TODAY Show.

“There are other ways to get attention that are more long-term and aligned with the brand,” says Gabor. “This doesn’t feel like a gimmick. It feels like they stepped into something they didn’t like and backed off.”

“It’s a really difficult time to be a brand and navigate these things,” Gabor added. “We have a very, very polarized society… And I always tell our clients that actions speak louder than marketing.”

Carlson brought up the subject again during his show on Monday night, after the U-turn was announced. “Well, the geniuses at Mars Corporation figure that you might want to be lectured on sexual politics while eating their chocolate candies. Turns out a lot of people didn’t want that, they just wanted the snack,” she said.

Mars, Inc. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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write to Nik Popli at nik.popli@time.com.

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