M&M’s recently announced a purpose-driven, “inclusivity” character update
symbolising a wider intention to build community, make the world more inclusive and fun, and help people feel like they belong. Well, that’s nice, isn’t it? Far better than “fill the world with sugar to unlock shareholder value”. I was actually feeling a little isolated recently, who knew my third-choice chocolate candy would be the one stepping up to help? The little legends.
As buoyed as I am by the intent, my slight problem with this progressive and purposeful MO is that, on first glance, it is little more than an executional decision. An identity update. Branding. I need meaningful help, guys. Not fashion tweaks.
But perhaps this is just day one. My hope of more meaningful action is renewed when I find out that this was more than branding. There was research… “Studies show our desire to belong is as strong as our desire to be loved, and that desire is common for all people irrespective of culture, race, ethnicity, geography, or location,” the company says, with the goal of “increasing the sense of belonging for 10 million people around the world by 2025.”
If nothing else, M&M’s certainly can’t be accused of lacking in ambition. It has even put a ‘measurable’ number to it. I do, however, offer a word of warning for their cause. But is it too big? Best-laid plans and all that. Trillion-dollar Facebook even struggles with this; Brown, Green, and Orange really might struggle. What might help is a tighter articulation of the purpose/mission/agenda. Carrying concepts like community, belonging, fun and inclusivity, it’s so big that it is rendered blunt. What’s the real intent here?
I posit that in pursuit of these bigger concepts, M&M’s have perhaps missed a believable and actionable high ground. Two things I know about the brand’s professed target audience of progressive Gen Z-ers is that they are more about ME than WE and authenticity conquers all. This insight suggests ondividuality is that one thing. Fly your colours. Do your thing. Eat your candy… By getting lost in the purpose babble and relieving Green of her go-go boots the brand has actually undermined individuality and NOT been inclusive.
To be fair, this is just another brand strategist trying to tighten and make sense of a lofty social purpose. Perhaps the big point here is that M&M’s have missed that true purpose does not need to be social. That’s why this rebrand is being roundly battered across the internet; its purported ‘purpose’ is hugely, if not wholly, divorced from its product and business.
But who knows? Maybe the M&M’s brand team will convince the Mars Wrigley board to sacrifice profit to support mental health amongst young men. Maybe it will give staff 20 hours volunteering a year to teach and offer hundreds of work placements to inspire young girls to be a boss. Maybe it will overhaul its leadership team to ensure more diversity. Maybe it will hire a culture and collaboration scientist to figure out how it as a work community can better function.
I sincerely hope that M&M’s has more meaningful action up its sleeves that it has yet to announce. In the meantime, its leaders are sure to have learned the lesson that purpose must run far deeper than shoe choices.