M&M's gain weight, get new dye job

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First they went mini, then crispy. Now M&M's are trying bigger, all in an effort to find ways of growing a popular but stalled franchise.

With the launch of Mega M&M's in July-a line of bigger-sized versions of its popular chocolate candies in more sophisticated colors-Masterfoods USA hopes to cater to adult's color palettes and their desire for a little more in every mouthful.

Maroon will replace red, blue will be more of a watery blue/grey and turquoise will take the place of green in a plug for mom to buy M&M's more for herself and for entertaining. Let the kids have their Minis-Mega provides a new occasion for adult indulgence.

"There is more of a contemporary sophistication to the Mega brand in terms of the colors, which are more decorative, and the on-average 55% larger size, which is more satiating," said Masterfoods spokeswoman Joan Buyce. Or, as on-package richly-hued spokescharacters put it more simply: "More of me to love..."

NO SPOKESCANDIES

The line, sparked by the popularity of "ogre-sized" M&M's during last year's "Shrek II" promotion, will be promoted in August with roughly $10 million worth of ads that eschew the spokescharacters but stay true to the humorous bent of the brand, albeit likely with even more of an adult edge. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York, handles.

But novelty has only been able to take M&M's so far for so long. In the two decades since M&M's has experimented with changing flavors, many have come and gone without the staying power of its classic. Minis have grown to only roughly $24 million of the brand's total $500 million in sales in food, drug and mass outlets excluding Wal-Mart (with recent sales slipping precipitously) and Crispy has all but disappeared, according to Information Resources Inc. data.

"M&M's has done a masterful job at taking a powerful brand and dividing and conquering to go after untapped segments without hurting their base business," said Allen Adamson, managing director at Landor, New York. Although some may balk at the many PR-grabbing stunts that have brought the chocolate-candy brand from black and white to brighter and bolder and back again, Mr. Adamson said, "Masterfoods has been able to reinvent M&M's with something relevant to new audiences without losing what the brand stands for."

M&M Modifications

A timeline of brand extentions

Early ‘90s: Peanut butter and almond varieties (now defunct)

1995: Blue introduced

1996: Minis and Colorworks personalized color blends

1997: Green color and spokescharacter unveiled

1999: Crispy M&Ms

2000: Minis Mega Tubes

2001-2002: Global Color Vote promo results in limited-time Purple

2004: M&M’s go black and white, then return with bolder colors

2005: Megas

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