Update, January 24, 2022: I remain convinced that the woke M&M’s are some sort of weird Super Bowl ad teaser, not a genuine rebrand. But that didn’t stop Fox News host Tucker Carlson from lashing out in one of his customary pop culture rants, which, as Forbes puts it, often frame “corporate ‘wokeness’ as a symbol of societal decline.”
Over the weekend, Carlson condemned the updated M&M’s characters as “less sexy,” proclaiming: “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous. Until the moment you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal.”
M&M’s had to know this was coming, right? If the internet at large is mocking your brand for unnecessary wokeness, you know the fear-mongering right-wing buttmunches are getting in on the conversation. Everyone’s going to be pret-ty embarrassed when this campaign turns out to be fake. Well, everyone except Carlson. I don’t imagine he feels shame of any kind.
Original post, January 21, 2022: It’s Friday, which means it’s time for a conspiracy. Please allow me to activate my VPN, don my tin foil hat, and clutter my office walls with sticky notes and string. Are you ready? Here, lean in close so my assigned FBI agent can’t hear what I’m about to tell you: I’m pretty sure that dumb M&M’s character rebrand is fake.
If you somehow avoided the internet yesterday, I’ll recap for you. M&M’s parent company, Mars Inc., announced that the brand’s anthropomorphized candy guys and gals will undergo a makeover. They’re getting “more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling.” The company said the character makeover is part of its “global commitment to creating a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive.”
As part of the rebrand, the M&M’s names will be less gendered, forgoing prefixes like “Ms.” and “Mr.” The characters’ looks will also be updated; the Brown M&M will sport a pair of lower, more sensible heels, for example. But Twitter users everywhere honed in on one particular aspect of the rebrand: they took away the Green M&M’s sexy little boots. Per the brand, the famously horny Green M&M now sports a pair of “cool, laid-back sneakers to reflect her effortless confidence.” This upset many, including Twitter users who called for the company to “re-yassify the M&Ms immediately”and one esteemed Rolling Stone writer who begged for Mars to “Let the Green M&M Be a Nasty Little Slut.”
Jokes aside, the conversation was dominated by people who found the rebrand useless at best, performatively woke at worst. But the brand did exactly what it set out to do with the announcement: it kicked off frenzied internet discourse. Google Trends search data for the term “M&Ms” spiked immediately; “M&Ms” appeared in Twitter’s “trending” panel all day. (It’s still there, although it’s been outpaced by “West Elm Caleb,” another horrible internet thing with which you absolutely should not engage.)
The question is: was the Mars announcement simply a misguided attempt to stay relevant, or was it... FAKE? I can’t kick the fake theory, fueled in part by my obsession with what I’ll call the Mister Peanut effect. Back in January 2020, Planters famously killed off Mr. Peanut in a freak accident. At the time, Takeout Editor-In-Chief Marnie Shure wrote that the event “occurred suspiciously close to Super Bowl Sunday, aka the Marketers’ Bacchanal, so it was widely suspected that this death was just paving the way for a mid-game resurrection of the longtime Planters mascot.” That’s exactly what happened. The death of the esteemed nut turned out to be a weeks-long ad campaign that culminated in a bizarre Super Bowl ad.
My theory is this: Mars dropped the redesigned characters to get the conversation going prior to the Super Bowl. During the Super Bowl, they’ll “reverse” their decision via an ad, which will do away with the newly uniform characters and hinge on embracing individuality. “We were wrong,” the brand will say. “An inclusive society can include a piece of candy wearing sexy boots, after all.”
I realize that I’m contributing to the discourse with this article, but I feel that my crackpot ramblings deserve to be heard. Of course, the rebrand could also be a very real way to distract from the fact that Mars is one of several candy companies currently being sued by former child laborers. Never trust a brand, friends! Never trust a brand.