In a first signal of the possibilities that its attention-getting mascot makeover can deliver, M&M's has released a series of new product packages inspired by artwork on the cover of iconic record albums.
The new packages highlight award-winning albums from Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R., Rosalía and David Bowie. According to the brand, these albums were selected so as to appeal to fans from varied backgrounds and generations, underscoring a message of inclusion that inspired the candymaker to tweak the looks and personalities of its candy mascots last week. That move set off widespread cultural fireworks, including a mention in the “Saturday Night Live” cold opening, debate on programs like “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and “The View,” as well as millions of social media takes.
Laurie Godfrey, senior associate brand manager for M&M’s, said the fevered reaction to its changes reflects the passion for the brand, adding that the company was confident that its fans would embrace the changes and the larger movement they are a part of.
“We know people love the characters, and expected the changes to resonate with fans,” she said in an email to Ad Age. “However, the update to the characters is just one small part of our broader brand purpose, which is to create a world where everyone feels they belong.”
Read more: Why M&Ms ordered a mascot makeover
Raging debate over “woke M&Ms” has become something of an ironic offshoot of its purpose but has succeeded wildly in generating attention. And while the Green M&M’s sensible new sneakers might limit the brand’s sex appeal, it is also opening up the potential to tap into widespread cultural interests like music, officials believe. The new marketing approach was developed by Mars Wrigley in partnership with BBDO New York, its longtime creative agency of record. JKR, Weber Shandwick and other agencies also contributed.
The featured albums include Bowie’s 1973 classic “Aladdin Sane” whose cover art—said to have been the most expensive produced at the time—depicted the artist with a multicolored lightning bolt across his face. M&M’s package places its dumpy Yellow mascot in the place of the Thin White Duke. The package recalling H.E.R.’s 2017 self-titled album shows a silhouetted M&M’s figure on a gradient background. Country artist Kacey Musgraves’ 2018 album “Golden Hour” is celebrated with a package showing the Green M&M behind a paper fan. The Green M&M also apes the pose of the Latin pop star Rosalía on the cover of her 2018 album “El Mal Querer,” whose cover depicted the singer above clouds wearing a white cape and surrounded by a gold chain.
“M&M’s believes music inspires emotion, which has the power to connect people by helping them see past their differences and encourages connection and belonging,” Godfrey said. “The new M&M’s Album Art packs feature the beloved M&M’S characters reimagined as the landmark album covers of artists who have brought together millions through their music.”
M&M’s said it tapped into the featured artists’ fanbases on social media, and selected 15 fans to receive special packages.
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M&M’s isn’t the first candy to connect to fans through album cover art.
Amural Products Co. in the 1980s introduced a short-lived candy store phenomenon known as Chu-Bops, which offered small, grooved discs of bubble gum in 3-inch-by-3-inch packages that replicated contemporary and classic rock album covers. Each miniature album came with a song lyric printed on the back side. The Chu-Bops collection also included a David Bowie album, 1980’s “Scary Monsters.” Some Chu-Bops, which retailed for about quarter, now command hundreds of dollars on the memorabilia circuit.
Amural discontinued Chu-Bops around 1983. The company today is owned by M&M’s parent, Mars Wrigley.