Mars Wrigley has announced it is scrapping its ‘spokescandies’ marketing campaign after attracting controversy in certain sections of the US media over their rebranded appearances.
As reported on CN, the brand began making changes to its walking, talking M&M's characters in January 2022, replacing the shoes of both the brown and green female M&M's, in particular, changing the green M&M's high-heeled go-go boots with sneakers.
Anton Vincent, president of Mars Wrigley North America, explained at the time that the changes were made to make the characters more "representative of the customer."
But the changes sparked a backlash from some right wing media commentators, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who said the female M&Ms were now "less sexy" with their new footwear.
The brand also drew criticism from conservatives when in December, the candy introduced all-female packaging to promote International Women’s Day. The new packaging featured the three female M&M’s, Green, Brown and Purple. One dollar from each limited-edition pack, up to $500,000, was to go to female-empowerment organisations.
Writing in Forbes magazine, Kim Elsesser, said: “Again, not something that appears particularly controversial. Nonetheless, one Fox anchor suggested the feminist pack emboldened China.”
In a statement released on Twitter, the candy brand announced: ‘In the last year, we've made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren't sure if anyone would even notice.
‘And we definitely didn't think it would break the internet. But now we get it — even a candy's shoes can be polarising, which was the last thing M&M's wanted since we're all about bringing people together'.
In an email sent by the brand’s PR agency, it was announced that M&M’S will be partnering with ‘beloved actress and comedy icon’ Maya Rudolph to become the brand’s new spokesperson in a newly created role: M&M’S ‘Chief of Fun!’
‘As Chief of Fun, Maya will use her comedic talents and captivating personality to help M&M'S build on its mission to create a world where everyone feels they belong. Her first appearance with the brand will be in M&M’S upcoming Super Bowl LVII campaign (after the brand announced in December that it's returning to the Super Bowl)’.
With the new role, Maya will serve as M&M’S new spokesperson, “while the colourful cast of original spokescandies will step away to pursue other passions”.
The M&M’s spokescandies were created in the 1990s, with Green as the token female accompanied by three male candies, Blue, Yellow and Red. In 2012, M&M’s added Brown, another female who had reportedly worked for decades behind the scenes as 'chief chocolate officer.'
Brown’s footwear also changed last year when she swapped her stilettos for more neutral-looking pumps with lower, block heels.
Taking a stand
Candy companies have been actively taking a stand on social matters in recent times, most notably the Black Lives Matter and Pride Month as surveys reveal that it appeals to younger consumers in particular.
But there are also risks in alienating consumers who don’t support such beliefs.
“In the case of M&M’s, they seem to be sending the message that female empowerment and inclusivity aren’t worth that risk. It’s not that women or LGBTQ individuals need anthropomorphized candies to advocate for them. They don’t. But axing the candies after pushback from conservative commentators is reactive, insulting and suggests these groups aren’t worth the fight. As for now, the spokescandies remain on the Mars.com website. Perhaps the brand will reconsider,” said Elsesser.
Mars Wrigley has declined to comment further on the changes, apart from the announcement on social media, but said it “will share more on the spokescandies new pursuits over the next few weeks.”