Stop what you’re doing — there’s a new color in the gang…
Mars, the producer of M&Ms, has unveiled his first new character in a decade: Purple.
This came after the company announced a “modern overhaul” of its characters earlier this year, as part of a “global commitment to creating a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive.”
In addition to Green and Brown, the new permanent addition to the team is the third female member of the M&M team. But is the first female peanut M&M… when you’re a snack-obsessed child prodigy who keeps track of things.
The character, who was voiced by comedian and talk show host Amber Ruffin, was featured in the following YouTube video for her new song “I’m Just Gonna Be Me.”
What a time to be alive.
Mind you, that wouldn’t change much for fans of edible treats, as the colors in the chocolate-coated candy bags remain the same: red, orange, blue, yellow, green and brown. Lila will only be present in the brand’s advertising campaigns.
Mars said Purple was added as the brand’s newest “spokesperson” and was “designed to represent acceptance and inclusivity.”
“Our newest member is known for her serious self-expression,” the brand continued. “Sharp self-confidence, authenticity and self-confidence are the driving forces behind Purple’s charm and bizarre nature.”
“There is so much about our new spokesperson that people can relate to and appreciate, including her willingness to embrace their true self. Our new character reminds us to celebrate what makes us unique,” said Jane Hwang, global vice president at Mars Wrigley.
Why should we care about that?
A very fair request.
Well, if your eyes have rolled so hard, they’ve made a full 180° on these Mars Wrigley comments and you can’t completely wrap your head around the idea that candy is a) a “speaker candy” and b) a nightmarish anthropomorphized beacon of acceptance and inclusivity, can you You might take comfort in the fact that Mars Wrigley is adding the melody from the music video above to all major music platforms.
For each stream, a donation of $1 (up to $500,000) is made to Sing for Hope—“ a nonprofit organization that uses the power of the arts to bring hope, connection, and meaning to millions of people around the world through music.”
That’s something: a useful initiative as opposed to the aesthetic rebrand made earlier this year, in which M&Ms changed the shoes of the female green figure to be more “progressive.”
Because everyone knows that it’s not about personality, it’s about shoes.
The move that no one has asked of the multinational conglomerate remains a transparent offer to pass off marketing tactics as somehow useful. Even worse, the company seemed to perpetuate stereotypes about women: The new runners should reflect “effortless confidence,” which apparently no woman in high-heeled boots could aspire to.
And this week’s news doesn’t feel that far off.
Yet it will be fun to see Fox News experts like Tucker Carlson once again grumbling about the “liberal alert agenda,” particularly after his tirade earlier this year in which he condemned the changes made to Green because they made the character “less sexy.” In fact, the distraught news anchor explained: “M&Ms will only be satisfied when every last cartoon character is profoundly unattractive and completely androgynous. Until that moment, you don’t want to have a drink with any of them. That is the goal.”
Yes, that was Tucker Carlson, who complained that he can’t take an M&M out for a drink and God knows what else.
And aside from all cynicism, striving for inclusivity and desexualization of mascots who had absolutely nothing to do with being sexualized is just a good thing. It can also help to take a stand on social issues, and rebranding can help — especially when it comes to more body-positive Barbie dolls and less offensive logos, such as when the Aunt Jemima brand removed its image due to a racist stereotype.
Millennials and Gen Z expect brands to be aware of their values, and more and more consumers expect brands to take a meaningful stance in social conversations. It is a difficult issue for companies, which always risks a backlash for socially driven campaigns that can be perceived as opportunistic or empty solidarity in the quest for profit.
Remember, for example, that remarkable Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner that trivialized the Black Lives Matter movement?
The introduction of the new M&Ms character Purple doesn’t feel as deaf in any way as the Pepsi commercial, but it’s also not particularly significant in terms of inclusivity, as Mars would like you to believe.
Purple is also not on a par with more effective brand stands such as Bodyform’s 2020 campaign to highlight the “unspoken” truths about female experiences with endometriosis and first periods, or Tommy Hilfiger’s partnership with the FutureLearn learning platform to offer free digital learning courses Topics such as community building and LGBTQ+ alliances.
In fact, Purple feels more like a shameless push to reach a younger audience under the guise of progress.
The consolation is that money is being used for a good cause this time, and let’s be honest: While no one in their right mind would seek chocolate as a guide on topics such as inclusivity in the modern world, M&Ms make a damn look better than most movies, series, and festivals in gender representation.
At least chats among the anthropomorphized cuties could possibly pass the Bechdel test.