Did M&M’s characters need a makeover?
Mars has updated M&M’s five anthropomorphized color-coded mascots that appear in marketing campaigns as a way to promote inclusivity, leading some to question whether it’s another case of “wokeness” run amuck.
The changes, according to a release, include a “more modern take” on their appearance, with the biggest changes made to the two female characters.
Green, often seen as the “sexy M&M,” no longer has one hand on her head and another by her hip in a come-hither pose. Her signature white go-go boots have been exchanged for sneakers that Mars said reflects the relaxed dress code of the pandemic.
Brown, the other female character, has likewise switched her stilettos for pumps. Marketing efforts moving forward will present characters in different shapes and sizes to promote diversity.
The company says the update also reflects “more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling.”
Green is being reimagined as more confident, Red as less bossy and Orange now acknowledges and embraces his anxieties. Yellow, the goofiest M&M in the past, becomes the optimist.
Finally, the makeover includes “an updated tone of voice that is more inclusive, welcoming and unifying, while remaining rooted in our signature jester wit and humor.”
Toning down the sex appeal of M&M’s feminine characters became the butt of jokes across the internet last week, and the overall strategy struck some as an overreaction to cultural sensibilities. The changes follow recent rebrands by Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben’s, Eskimo Pie and Ms. Butterworth over racism concerns.
M&M’s often relies on broad, physical humor that sometimes plays to sexist themes. Green, the first gender-oriented character launched with a 1997 Super Bowl commercial, may have already offended some with her long lashes, pouty lips and appearances in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, once posing on a stripper pole.
Mars, however, asserts the refresh aligns the characters with the times. Jane Hwang, global VP of M&M’s, told Adweek, “We took a deep look at our characters, both inside and out, and have evolved their looks, personalities and backstories to be more representative of the dynamic and progressive world we live in.”
- Iconic M&M’S Brand Announces Global Commitment to Creating A World Where Everyone Feels They Belong – Mars
- M&M’S Creating a World Where Everyone Feels They Belong – Mars
- Green M&M’s Fashion Makeover Is Covid Comfy but Not Everyone Is Happy – The Wall Street Journal
- M&M’s Updates Mascots to Represent a More ‘Dynamic and Progressive World’ – Adweek
- Mars gives M&M’s a makeover to promote inclusivity – ABC News
- M&M’s characters are getting a new look to become more ‘inclusive’ – Today
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Were M&M’s mascots outdated or were the updates an overreaction to cultural sensitivities? How do brand managers determine when a refresh is necessary?