Everybody knows that there are three major features of M&M: it only melts in your mouth, not your hands, each package contains different flavors, and each color-coated chocolate has its own personification. M&M’s unique marketing operation is precisely the reason why it stands out among all other brands. Of all the strategies, the most commendable performance lies in its shaping of brand character.
Sweets, unlike 3C products, do not feature on being ‘stronger’, ‘faster’ in technological functions. High-tech products may cause heated discussion and generate much attention merely from their specifications. However, for sweets and snacks, the most common marketing strategy seems to be the launch of new flavor. M&M defies that trend and turns the focus to the ‘characters’ of the brand, instead of its products.
In M&M, each color represents a personality. They are not perfect, and they do not hide their shortcomings. M&Ms are like the reflections of their human counterparts, in other words, they make chocolates humane. For example, yellow M&M has a heart of a child, he’s kind and positive; red M&M is witty and smart, but all talks; blue M&M likes to play saxophone, picks up girls, and has a potential to become evil…
Age: Unknown, but he’s in touch with his inner child.
Weight: Around average…for a peanut with milk chocolate padding.
Likes: Pretty ladies and fluffy things.
Best Friend: Red, because he seems to know a lot.
Best Attribute: Sees the good in everything.
Shortcomings: Nice guys finish last.
Appearance: Plump, yellow, and all smiles.
Pet Phrase: Inside everyone there’s a little nut.
This year, M&M first launched ‘Green’ then a second female character ‘Brown’ (Ms. Brown). She is M&M’s CCO (Chief Chocolate Officer) who propels the launch of many new products for the past 70 years and makes M&M the best-selling chocolate in the history. She feels that in the face of this ever competitive market, she shouldn’t be sitting in the office so it is time for her to face the audience and shoulder the role of ‘chocolate spokesperson’. (After such description, don’t you just feel that Ms. Brown is an ‘actual’ person?)
M&M does not just tell good stories, most importantly, it reinforce and refreshes consumers’ impression through series of marketing campaigns.
Ms. Brown’s first commercial was launched during the prime time ad time of Super Bowl. The commercial carries M&M’s light-hearted and humorous tone of which Brown said, “What’s up with that guy?” A lady audience, “he thinks you’re naked.” Brown said to the guy, seriously, “My shell is brown, it just looks like I have my chocolate showing, only a fool will actually think I’d show up naked.”
At the meantime, a huge Ms. Brown statue was erected in the Grave Square in L.A, introducing the 6th chocolate figure in the history.
In addition, M&M also did not forget to promote Ms. Brown with hot social media like Facebook or twitter. Don’t forget, Ms. Brown’s title is the spokesperson, which means she has to stand on the front line to answer queries. You may raise any M&M related questions on Facebook, and Ms. Brown will answer you with filmed video. For example, someone asked, “What the hell is CCO, what does it entail? What is your favorite flavor of chocolate?” etc. The films are usually simple computer animation with a fixed setting, with Ms. Brown speaking in front of the camera. However, her actions, lips and facial expression fit perfectly.
M&M especially set up a temporary chocolate art museum in New York to exhibit some works related to Ms. Brown’s life. The show is free of charge and many of the artworks were actually made by real chocolate.
The series of campaign made Ms. Brown a real ‘person’, M&M builds her character with ads, exhibitions and live interactions with consumers. We have to applaud her for being ‘in the character’. The reason we’d purchase M&M is not only because it tastes good, but because we like or identify with those adorable, kind, and sometimes a bit evil chocolate characters.
Running and shaping brand characters is a long-term and costly investment, but come to think of it, if you only focus on the change of flavors, people are more likely to sidetrack and maybe even start to buy competitor’s brand since it’s all very similar. Marketers could also come to their wits’ ends because ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.
Mika, Internet Marketing Observer
Born in the 60s, Mika has worked in the field of consumption marketing for decades. He experienced brand strategy, product concept all the way to official launch. He cars about traditional marketing model as well as the changes arise from Web2.0 and social media.