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M&M’s clarifies controversial decision to replace ‘spokescandies’ with Maya Rudolph

The candy company says it’s proud to introduce ‘a spokesperson America can agree on’

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Friday 27 January 2023 21:55 GMT
Related: Tucker Carlson complains that M&M character is no longer wearing ‘sexy boots’

M&M’s has clarified its decision to replace its “beloved spokescandies” with Maya Rudolph, after a statement announcing the shift away from the candy company’s “polarising” mascots prompted criticism.

The brand shared a statement announcing the change on Monday, declaring it would be taking an “indefinite pause” from using its candy mascots. M&M’s implied the decision was made following backlash over recent changes to the candy.

Earlier this month, the brand, which is owned by confectionary Mars Wrigley, announced its new campaign, Flipping the Status Quo. The campaign saw the production of limited-edition packages featuring only “M&M’s three leading ladies,” Brown, Green and its newest addition, Purple.

The campaign, which raised money to support women in creative industries, sparked ire from Fox News host Tucker Carlson. During a recent segment criticising the “woke M&Ms,” Carlson questioned the sexual orientations and physical depictions of the candy-coated mascots.

Carlson also expressed his disappointment with the brand’s spokecandies last year, when he condemned the candies as being “less sexy” following a rebranding. The updated design saw some of the candies change footwear, with the green M&M trading knee-high boots for sneakers and the brown mascot shortening her heel height.

In its statement, M&M’s said it hadn’t meant to “break the internet” with the redesign and shared its hope that Rudolph will be a spokesperson “America can agree on”.

“America, let’s talk. In the last year, we’ve made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet,” the company said. “But now we get it - even a candy’s shoes can be polarising. Which was the last thing M&M’s wanted since we’re all about bringing people together.”

After revealing the brand’s plan to take an “indefinite pause” from its M&M’s mascots, the candy company said it was “proud to introduce a spokesperson America can agree on”.

“We are confident Ms Rudolph will champion the power of fun to create a world where everyone feels they belong,” the company added.

At the time, the Bridesmaids star confirmed she would take her place as M&M’s newest spokesperson in the company’s upcoming Super Bowl ad on 12 February, a role she described as an “honour” to Today.

“I’m thrilled to be working with M&M’s,” Rudolph told the outlet . “I am a lifelong lover of the candy and I feel like it’s such an honour to be asked to be part of such a legendary brand’s campaign.”

“It’s a very fun pairing, if I do say so myself,” she continued, adding that she thinks “little Maya would be thrilled to get to work with M&M’s”.

However, rather than a hint at what is to come during the Super Bowl, it appears many interpreted M&M’s statement as the brand’s way of “giving in” to the Carlson-led conservative outrage over the candy mascots.

“Why are you giving in to one irrelevant faux news ‘anchor’?” one person tweeted. “Keep the awesome cartoon spokescharacters.”

Another critic said: “In other words, your company sold out its values and ethics and decided to give in to the haters. Very disappointing M&M’s.”

“I really hope the M&M’s [statement] is an elaborate joke because giving in to Tucker Carlson is not the vibe,” someone else declared in the days after the change was announced.

In a statement to The New York Times, M&M’s clarified that its spokescandies aren’t going anywhere, and that the controversial statement was seemingly nothing more than a Super Bowl marketing stunt. “Rest assured, the characters are our official long-term spokescandies,” a spokesperson said, adding that, although “the iconic M&M’s characters are in fact spending some time pursuing their other passions,” they will be “right where they belong at the heart of the brand” during the Super Bowl.

“We’re confident that fans who have embraced the M&M’s brand purpose and the refreshed characters launched in the past year will be pleased,” the spokesperson added of the brand’s upcoming campaign during the big game.

Despite the clarification, some brand strategists have criticised the stunt, with Debbie Millman, the co-founder and chair of the School of Visual Arts’s graduate program in branding, telling The New York Times that the brand handled the backlash to its rebranding poorly, even if it was meant to be a stunt in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.

According to Millman, despite the intended message, the brand’s statement made it appear it was backtracking on inclusivity. “If they really believed in inclusivity, if they really believed in having representation in these spokescandies, they absolutely should have known it was going to be polarising,” Millman said. “If they really wanted to make a change and a stand for what they believed in, they should have the backbone to stick with it.”

The Independent has contacted M&M’s for comment.

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