M&M’s celebrates iconic albums in packaging play following controversial rebrand

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • M&M’s is introducing packaging for its candies that pays tribute to four breakthrough musical artists, according to a news release. It is the first marketing effort since the Mars Wrigley label enacted an extensive rebranding initiative last week to focus more on inclusivity.
  • The M&M’s Album Art packages are themed around album artwork from Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R., Rosalía and David Bowie. The selection of musicians is meant to ensure that fan bases from different cultural backgrounds and generations feel represented, the company said.
  • M&M’s used social media insights to identify 15 fans and send them packs featuring their respective favorite artist. The campaign is indicative of how M&M’s could use its fresh commitments around purpose to forge a deeper emotional connection with consumers, though the rebrand itself has stoked some harsh criticism.

Dive Insight:

M&M’s is putting a new inclusivity-minded brand platform into action with the limited-edition packaging celebrating a variety of famous musicians. The M&M’s Album Art offerings pay homage to Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour,” H.E.R.’s self-titled album, Rosalía’s “El Mal Querer” and David Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” and are available across the milk chocolate, peanut, peanut butter and minis variants online and at select retailers nationwide. On each pack, an M&M’s candy mascot takes the place of the musician in the album art, and the products come with a QR code that can be scanned to unlock a special “music experience.”

The four artists encompass a range of styles, from Rosalía’s Flamenco-influenced pop to H.E.R.’s R&B balladry and the glam rock of Bowie’s Aladdin Sane period. Bowie, who passed away in 2016, is in some ways the outlier of the group — the other three have broken into the mainstream fairly recently — and could be a bid to court older generations nostalgic for the classic-rock era. Otherwise, the musicians appear more tailored to the Gen Z and millennial set, while still targeting fans from different backgrounds.

A packaging play that aligns M&M’s with diverse cultural icons serves as an early indicator of what the candy label’s renewed approach to marketing could look like. M&M’s last week revealed it was overhauling its branding to firm up commitments to inclusivity and foster a stronger sense of belonging among consumers. The changes, executed in partnership with agency BBDO New York and design shop Jones Knowles Ritchie, feature a stronger emphasis on the ampersand of M&M’s as a symbol of connection and a makeover for its candies mascots.

The green M&M, previously known for her flirty demeanor, has swapped out high-heeled boots for plain tennis sneakers, while other characters have been refined to better draw out their “nuanced personalities,” including an orange variant that experiences anxiety. As part of the push, M&M’s has pledged to increase a sense of belonging for 10 million people globally by 2025.

The news inspired backlash both from right-leaning figures irked by the creative’s gender-inclusive bent and social media users more generally befuddled by concepts like candies who struggle with mental health.

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