Some of the scandalous female M&Ms.
Some of the scandalous female M&Ms.

How M&M’s used scandal for a great PR stunt

The well-known candy brand, M&M’s, has recently been involved in what some may consider a scandal. It all began in January of 2022 when the company decided to shorten the green M&M’s legs and replace the thigh-high, heeled boots with a pair of sneakers, wanting to slightly rebrand the portrayal of their female characters. This rebranding idea received very contradicting criticisms, with some people stating that making the candy ‘less hot’ is perpetuating the idea that certain articles of clothing make women less respectable, while others claim that removing this ‘suggestive’ clothing is spreading the ‘woke’ agenda. Tucker Carlson from Fox News seemed particularly put off by this decision, claiming that, “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing.”

The controversy continued this year, when M&M’s decided to create some personalities for their characters, return the boots to the green candy, and feature a bag with only female spokescandies on it for International Women’s Day, one of them being a new purple peanut M&M. Tucker Carlson decided to, once again, cover this change on Fox News, describing the purple character as an “obese and distinctively frumpy lesbian M&M”. Many people found it very comical that Fox News has covered this topic twice, and with such a dramatic reaction each time, Carlson’s comments quickly started trending online, bringing a spotlight to these changes.

Once this trend began circulating around the internet, M&Ms ultimately decided to release a statement claiming they were removing their spokescandy from their brand for an indefinite amount of time, letting Maya Rudolph take over as the candy’s spokesperson. This gained them even more attention online. However, after two clever Super Bowl commercials starring Maya Rudolph, it became apparent that M&M’s has been using this scandal as an extremely clever PR campaign. Rudolph announced the new candy replacements, Ma&Ya’s made of chocolate and clams, in the first commercial with one of the M&M candies making an appearance in the background holding a ‘HELP’ sign. This cameo and the ridiculous nature of this ‘new candy’ was all appealing to the audience’s humor, poking fun at the entire controversy. A second commercial then aired towards the end of the game, featuring the original candy and claiming “They’re back for good.”

What lessons can be taken from this?
In a day and age where scandals and controversies can spread like wildfire, it is important to stay on top of what people are saying about your brand.When faced with a scandal, crisis management is one of the most important skills to possess, and using the correct tactics while defending your brand can make or break your company’s future. The correct tactic can vary heavily depending on the situation- sometimes silence is the best approach, sometimes earnest apologies and explanations can help smooth the situation over. However, with controversies like M&M’s shoes, which many people consider a more trivial social issue, humor may be an extremely effective method to handle the situation.

Even for situations with a slightly more serious tone, creating an atmosphere that properly addresses the issue while also including some humor on the side can help smooth the situation over significantly and make your brand seem less defensive. Taco Bell, for example, was in the middle of a controversy in 2011 when a former employee claimed their beef had oats in it, and were advertising their meat incorrectly. While Taco Bell did defend their meat and discuss the ingredients used, they also used humor to lighten the situation. After confirming that their meat is real, the company went online and retweeted articles about the scandal, and even released ads saying, “Thank you for suing us,” and “Would it kill you to say you’re sorry?” Using humor, they spread information defending their product in a more fun and engaging way for audiences, helping recover the company’s credibility and bringing more positive attention to their brand.

Ultimately, this was a very smart publicity tactic for M&M’s. The company surely did not realize that changing a candy’s shoes would stir up such a controversy, but they used a potentially negative situation as a great opportunity to gain some fresh attention on their brand and spin the situation in their favor.

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