If you are a corporate mascot, you are in danger. Are you current enough? Woke enough? The M&M spokescandies are only the latest to get swallowed up by the left’s dominance of corporate culture.
Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins were all replaced by less interesting, less memorable, corporately generic names. Pearl Milling Company, Ben’s Original (How unoriginal!) Cleveland Guardians and the most generic of all, Washington Commanders. Mia from Land O Lakes butter and her buddy the Frito Bandito were simply sacrificed on the altar of corporate wokemanship. (Woke-personship?)
That’s what happened at Mars. The M&M public relations strategy was to turn a popular family brand woke overnight. The stated goal was, “creating a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive.”
That lefty corpspeak didn’t go well, so the media blamed … conservatives. CNBC said Mars dropped the candies “amid right-wing outrage.” CNN blamed “a year of conservative backlash to the brand.” But Mars admitted its chocolatey spokescandies had been “polarizing.”
That didn’t used to be the case and, fair to say, Mars started it. M&Ms finally ditched the woke marketing the company tried to ram down customers’ throats almost a year ago to the day. That campaign was introduced with an unsubtle strategy to address a “Dynamic and Progressive World.”
By March, Ad Week was headlining M&M’S Global VP Jane Hwang “on Evolving and Future-Proofing Your Brand.” (This is future-proofing, if you consider a corporate version of “The Last of Us” to be where you wanted your brand to end up.)
That innovative campaign saw an update to the look of iconic characters and the introduction of a new purple character. It also included a corporate partnership with bizarre musical performer Lil Nas X, known for sexual videos and marketing his “Satan Shoes,” made with a real drop of blood. Mars described him as a “musical superstar.” It left out the satanic stuff, of course.
The custom candies featured “images of butterflies, hearts and photos of Lil Nas X.” Shockingly, there were no pentagrams and goats’ heads. Someone in marketing slipped up. M&Ms didn’t even team up with the Church of Satan. All that happened under the press release headline: “M&M’S® Partners With Lil Nas X To Bring People Together Through Music, Art And Entertainment.”
When the purple M was introduced in September, it had deliberate woke appeal. Ad Week again showed the Mars agenda: “M&M’s Introduces a New Mascot All About Inclusivity.”
Finally, Mars admitted defeat, its iconic spokescandides mere shells of their former selves. Actress/comedian Maya Rudolph is taking their place and appearing in a new Super Bowl ad.
Even fellow lefties at The Washington Post were skeptical of the whole situation. “Was this the peanut-centered capitulation to the anti-woke crowd that the brand (maybe) wants us to think? Or just another marketing stunt?”
Most likely a bit of both. Mars is trying to make the best of a disastrous campaign driving its customers away. But by picking Rudolph who plays Vice President Kamala Harris on “Saturday Night Live,” they are still appeasing the woke audience. They are just hiding it better.
None of this is surprising. Corporate ESG (Environmental, social, and governance) policies are determined to wokeify every corporation that the left hasn’t already conquered. Corporate leftists don’t care if their moves offend the customers. They just have to appease their buddies on the left and in the legacy media, not that they are very different.
The Washington Redskins switch also offended core customers. The cancelation came on top of decades of team incompetence and scandal. It wasn’t even important to Native Americans to change the name, just Washington Post zealots.
And the attacks on Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben were so ridiculous they even generated a “Saturday Night Live” skit that mocked the decision. Ironically, Jemima was played by new M&M spokesperson Rudolph.
The expression, “go woke, go broke,” doesn’t exactly apply here. People will still eat M&Ms. Mars just foolishly followed in the footsteps of other failed marketers and undermined consumer loyalty for their product. The very icons they spent decades building up got torn down in a few months.
But, hey, it’s woke. And that’s all that matters.