OPINION: M&M mascots get the boot: Mars company pivots after candy controversy

It has been over one year since the beloved candy brand M&M’s launched its “For All Funkind” campaign.

Sound unfamiliar? To candy fans and the general public alike, Jan. 20, 2022, marked the day that the green M&M lost her charm.

As a part of the campaign, Mars, the candy company that makes M&M’s, redesigned its iconic candy spokespeople as a part of a “new global commitment to create a world where everyone feels they belong.” It revamped its candy mascots with a more “modern” and inclusive look.

While most of the characters, including the red, yellow, orange, brown and blue M&M’s did not undergo major changes, it was almost as if the green M&M lost her essence.

What did Mars do? The candy company stripped away her signature white go-go boots, replacing them with lace-up sneakers.

I do not understand this decision. How are sneakers any more inclusive than go-go boots? Some people may feel more represented by an athletic shoe style, but that does not mean that people felt excluded by the green M&M’s shoe choice.

Hyejin Kim, a public relations and advertising professor at DePaul, said that because the green M&M has been around for decades, it has become somewhat of an iconic character for consumers. They accept her at face-value.

“Maybe people just want to accept the character as is… instead of perceiving it as a symbol of female stereotypes,” Kim said.

Changing the green M&M made the rebranding campaign go viral, albeit not for the reasons Mars may have hoped. Instead of celebrating the changes, the internet was baffled by Mars’ seemingly random decision to create an “inclusive” shoe rebrand for something that was not exclusive in the first place.

It almost seemed like they wanted to attach themselves to diversity and inclusion efforts and this was the only way they knew how.

Kim said that the brand could have explained more about why they chose to support inclusive values.

“I don’t see the cohesive connection between their specific rebranding strategy and the rationale for supporting diversity and inclusion values,” Kim said.

In a poll, The DePaulia’s Instagram followers had mixed reactions to the rebrand. Some were in favor of the new design, but the majority of people just wanted the old green M&M back.

“I don’t like it,” one respondent wrote.

“She was slaying with the boots but now she’s boring,” another respondent replied.

Other people were more apathetic to the changes.

“It feels unnecessary, but I also think it’s weird that people are upset about it,” wrote one student.

When I compared the original and rebranded M&M’s, I understood why Mars felt like it needed to change its mascots. If you look up the first versions of the candy characters, you can see that these anthropomorphic chocolates are white. Not white the color, but white the skin tone.

Their arms and legs used to be a pale peachy color. The “For All Fun Kind” rebrand removes race from the candy mascots, changing their arms and legs to be a pale version of their body color.

In my casual research on the internet, for better or for worse, people were more focused on the green M&M and her new footwear.

Whether dressing down the green M&M was a planned part of the rebrand or whether it was a distraction from the fact that the M&M’s had a race, we might never know.

The boots went unaddressed until a statement from the brand two weeks ago.

“America, let’s talk,” M&M’s wrote in a statement on Twitter. “In the last year, we’ve made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice.”

The brand continued to say that they did not expect the campaign to be so polarizing, or even “break the internet.”

It was “the last thing M&M’s wanted” because they are “all about bringing people together.”

M&M’s ended its statement with a shocking announcement. They were removing the candy characters from its messaging and replacing them with a new spokesperson for the brand, comedian Maya Rudolph.

While this was an “indefinite” break from the character mascots, I doubt that the announcement will become permanent. M&M’s recently teased its upcoming Super Bowl ad featuring Rudolph in a press release. This is probably yet another publicity stunt for the candy and I have no doubts that the M&M’s will return soon.

“For All Funkind” has a positive message but poor execution. This campaign struck a nerve with people and showed that maybe people already feel represented by M&M’s. In trying to make the green M&M more relatable, M&M’s clearly did not understand its consumer base. People already related to the green M&M. There was no need to make a shoe change that no one asked for.

When the candy spokespeople return, I hope that green is wearing her boots again.