Reserve Or Spectacular Marketing?  M&Ms And The Brand Threats Playing The Culture Wars

Reserve Or Spectacular Marketing? M&Ms And The Brand Threats Playing The Culture Wars

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This week, after reading that candy company Mars Wrigley was “pausing” its new female candy characters because they would disturb the peace of the polarized population, I was reminded of another purple character that has been symbolic of many who was wrong with him. around the world to some pundits.

In early 1999, when my friend was allowed to carry an old 6-foot spear on board a plane because it did not fit in his luggage, Fr. Jerry Falwell Sr. headlines to warn that a TV character in the shape of a dumpling was fake. in the UK a gay lifestyle was being promoted among children. Falwell saw Tinky Winky, a manly purple “Teletubby” with a triangle on his head and a cute red handbag, as a danger. (For those who were raised on Monty Python and The Magic Carouselit was another day of television.)

As Falwell argued for Today interviewer Katie Couric at the time, Tinky Winky could lead to “little boys running around with purses and acting cool and giving away the idea that the male is masculine, the female is feminine, and that gay is okay” The televangelist and founder of Moral Majority seems not to have noticed that a purple singing dinosaur has been named Barney saying “I love you, you love me” another time.

It could be argued that the controversy was blown out of proportion on both sides. Falwell later admitted that he had never heard of Tinky Winky or Teletubbies before someone else publishes an opinion piece in their opinion National Journal of Liberty; he just used the backlash as an opportunity to process his anti-LGBTQ+ stance. Meanwhile, pundits and journalists had a field day using Tinky Winky as a symbol to mock Falwell and the religious right.

Candy for Conservative Pundits

Fast forward a generation and the purple menace this time has an anthropomorphized M&M who, along with their brown and green sisters, have been “woke” mockingly and unattractively by Fox News host – and the descendant of the Moral Majority – Tucker Carlson. It is not necessary to revisit all the details. Just picture some lout like, say, Biff from Back to the Futureand imagine his face when he learns a hot candy character swaps stilettos for practical block heels.

Carlson knows what good television is all about. So, of course, after we found out that the female candy characters are back, this time holding hands and hanging out on “all-female” candy packages to raise money to help women, for he used that in his show too. The M&Ms woke was back, he declared, and now there’s a lesbian and obese one, too. (Honey, hold me Nest of Men) Director Greta Gerwig can take comfort in knowing that she’ll get plenty of air time when she’s on her feminist side. Barbie finally comes out later this year.

Was the candy company Mars trying to be inclusive and inspired to create a more diverse range of M&M characters? Without a doubt. Was he really trying to attract customers in an effort to make money and pay attention to women who were “changing the status quo?” Definitely. Could he have predicted a similar backlash from casting a similar character when he added to his previous campaign? Probably.

So why was it folded?

Oops, We Broke The Internet

That is not clear. What’s most surprising about this latest battle in candy land is that Mars decided to put its candy mascots on “indefinite hiatus” just weeks after the campaign launched. I tweet posted on Monday, the company sounded almost triumphant noting that “even candy shoes can be polarizing” and claiming that they never intended to “break the internet”. (They broke the internet?)

To be clear, the “controversy” about the characters’ footwear broke a year ago. It certainly didn’t stop the M&Ms crew from “Purple” launching as an inclusive candy character in September. And yet the latest barbies are being hurled at their latest “all-female” candy campaign to prove it’s too much now. To bring everyone together, Mars said he would have to take drastic action. Farewell, “Sokescandies.” Hello spokeswoman Maya Rudolph! (Be sure to join us at Super Bowl LVII to find out more about Rudolph’s new ad!)

Now, like Pavlov’s dog, we are supposed to blame angry extremists, far-right commentators and narrow-minded people who bullied a good brand into stopping a fun campaign aimed at supporting women as they to empower. . Don’t get me wrong. I have a lesbian daughter and I am deeply disturbed by the constant attempts of some commentators to dehumanize certain segments of the population for sport, ratings or to bolster their own sense of vulnerability.

All the more reason for a company like Mars to resist playing in the culture wars to generate buzz for its products. Announcing that the “girls” were stepping aside to make way for Miss Rudolph (who is now tasked with bringing us together in a way that candy-coated chocolate can’t) in a hilarious message on social media that hand, if nothing else. Left or right, many of us don’t really like the idea of ​​powered candy.

I admit that when I was focused on M&M’s latest marketing ‘campaign’ to support women that launched on January 5th, I ran. (Hey, Mars, I changed my mind!) Something about celebrating “all-female” packages where the women were really cartoon candy characters made them feel insignificant and unworthy. I vaguely remembered the made-for-TV kerfuffle over the characters’ switch to more practical footwear and more comprehensive imagery a year earlier but I didn’t care if Tucker Carlson thought this new top was a more dated batch of candy. Outrage is baked into his brand. I’m not interested in promoting more polarization by playing that game.

So why is Mars making a big show of character asides that he was teasing two weeks ago? It’s hard to know how this artificial brouhaha has affected sales. As a private family business, Mars is not required to report earnings. I can say that those peanut M&M’s are often the first to go Forbes kitchen. M&Ms are also returning for the Super Bowl and Mars has plenty of other products that could have star billing. (A moment of silence for that iconic Snickers commercial with the late Betty White.)

Most importantly, Mars is a company that cares about inclusion. Having interviewed Victoria Mars when she received the “Holland on the Hill Heineken Award” in 2016, I know that she has a deep and long commitment to diversity and creating opportunities for women. So is Maya Rudolph, which makes her the odd celebrity to be able to bring us together.

All the more reason not to play this game. As a set-up, it is not very funny. Many brands are struggling to find common ground in our increasingly polarized country. It doesn’t help anyone to make fun of or make a show of wrapping up the most hateful aspects of society.

I’m curious to hear what other people think. If all press is good press, I think this is a slam dunk. (Sorry, football fans.) But it feels like a tactic that makes sports a real problem we all need to solve.

CxO will be on hiatus next week while I take a break. I’ll see you soon.

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