M&M hunt puts texters in the pink

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The Independent Online

Mars, the US foods giant, has launched a worldwide "colour voting" campaign in a bid to boost global awareness of its M&M chocolate brand and win over the youth market.

Mars, the US foods giant, has launched a worldwide "colour voting" campaign in a bid to boost global awareness of its M&M chocolate brand and win over the youth market.

Consumers of the small crispy-coated chocolates in 78 countries are being offered the chance to win various prizes by voting for a new colour M&M in what is being billed as the first ever global vote.

Entrants have to choose between pink, purple and aqua. They can text message, email or post in their selection in any one of 15 languages to addresses printed on packets of M&Ms to be on sale shortly. All voters will be entered in a draw, for which the first prize is an all-expenses-paid trip around the world. Other goodies to be won include trips to Las Vegas and personal CD players.

M&Ms are already the world's biggest-selling confectionery brand, with a turn-over of £1.5bn. About 146 billion are produced each year.

But Mars wants to push the brand further in countries including Britain, where it still lags behind its rivals, despite a 40 per cent increase in sales over the past five years. M&Ms did not even appear in the top 10 best-selling chocolates in the UK in 2000, a list that was dominated by KitKat, Mars bars and Cadbury's Dairy Milk.

"This is the first time we have launched a global vote, although we have previously held one in the US," a Mars spokesman said. "We're trying to bring the M&M brand together globally, as there are several markets such as the UK which are less mature."

A similar exercise, confined to the US, was carried out seven years ago. Ten million people voted, resulting in the old tan-coloured M&M being replaced by the current blue colour, reflecting fashions of the time.

When this year's vote has taken place, a new colour will be added to the existing range of M&Ms, which are currently brown, yellow, red, orange, blue and green. Back in 1941 when M&Ms were first introduced, a more subdued, violet M&M was the equivalent of today's electric blue. Red disappeared for a while until it returned in 1987 by public demand.

The prize winners will be announced in New York on 19 June; by then Mars will have built up an invaluable database on its consumers and target market as email and text message entrants will be providing their names, ages and postal, email and text message addresses. These will then be used as vital marketing intelligence.

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