The recent rebranding of M&M’s characters struck quite a few nerves with the internet – questioning if a candy company needs to be woke, pointing out that their gender imbalance still exists, and asking what on earth was wrong with the sexy green lady.

It’s no surprise that most outrage centered on the green M&M, which received the most stark visual update to remove her go-go boots and flirty affect, which the brand says is “to reflect her effortless confidence.”

M&M’s initiative to create “a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive” is a worthwhile mission – but is it possible to accomplish using only candy characters? If they’re focusing on inclusivity and empowerment, does swapping the signature high heels of its two female characters with lower heels or a pair of sneaks really achieve inclusivity? Or did they simply project a new definition of what empowerment looks like onto their characters?

Love them or hate them, the new M&M’s raise questions of what diversity & inclusion should look like at the corporate brand level.

Hotwire’s take? The brand missed the mark in a few areas:

  • Authenticity – unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if this brand update supports real values across the corporate and executive levels of M&M, or if it is sadly a marketing moment around diversity & inclusion. If this is a true value and priority for the brand, they need to communicate that in an authentic and human way, with a specific executive tied to the initiative to convey the full scope of the matter.
  • Accountability – branding can be great for values enforcement, but no one can call up a cartoon candy and hold them accountable for actual change. To effectively meet their mission, M&M needs to add a human spokesperson alongside their candy characters who can listen to consumer feedback and demonstrate a real understanding of inclusivity and brand values.
  • Action – a call to action within the brand campaign would have reduced questions of authenticity. They could have coupled the campaign with data showing how else they’re committing to the initiative or added a way to design your own M&M character and support a charitable foundation. Consumers need to see brand values translate into real progress before they truly buy in.

Want to get riled up about M&M’s, effective comms strategies and these 3 A’s of resilient leadership? Join our Corporate & Exec Comms specialists Tuesday, February 1st for a webinar on Exec Comms 2022: Bringing the Human Element Forward.