Inclusion Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

M&M’s drops ‘Album Art packs’ featuring Bowie & H.E.R. as part of more ‘inclusive’ rebrand


By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

January 25, 2022 | 4 min read

New M&M’s packaging pays homage to four iconic musicians: David Bowie, Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R. and Rosalía. The launch comes less than a week after the candy company announced that its classic hard-shelled characters would receive a more inclusive makeover.

M&Ms album artwork

M&M's new packaging pays homage to David Bowie, Kacey Musgraves, H.E.R. and Rosalía

Mars has released a series of limited-edition M&M’s packages featuring new takes on a collection of albums from iconic musical artists. The ‘Album Art packs’ come hot on the heels of a much-publicized rebranding campaign, which aims to make the cast of anthropomorphic, candy-shaped M&M characters more ‘inclusive.’

The Album Art packs, designed in collaboration with BBDO, include artistic themes from genre-defining albums that will be immediately familiar to most consumers – including David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane, Rosalía’s El Mal Querer, Kacey Musgrave’s Golden Hour and H.E.R.’s self-titled album H.E.R. The most notable distinction between the art from the albums themselves and the M&M’s reinterpretation is that the latter has replaced the artist’s image (featured on the original album cover) with one of its familiar candy characters. Instead of a topless, painted David Bowie, we see the portly yellow M&M – with the legendary Bowie lightning bolt streak across his face – on the front of one of the new M&M’s Album Art packages. Another features a play on the Rosalía album, showing the feminine green M&M with her arms outstretched, standing at the center of a halo of braided gold.

The albums featured in the new campaign from M&M’s are mostly contemporary (Musgraves’s and Rosalía’s album were both released in 2018, H.E.R.’s in 2017), suggesting an effort on the part of the brand to reach predominantly younger consumers. The inclusion of Bowie’s artwork, from an album released in 1973, can be interpreted as a nod both to older consumers and toward the genre of classic rock in general, which remains popular among music fans of all ages today.

“M&M’s Album Art Packs is inspired by the brand’s emphasis on inclusivity, together with its historically strong tie to music,” says Bart Mol, senior vice-president/senior creative director. “By partnering with barrier-breaking musical artists we aim to celebrate self-expression, and by combining their iconic art with our iconic characters, turn our products into brand expressions that are worth collecting.”

The new campaign comes just days after the company announced that it would be redesigning the appearance and personality quirks of each of its characters to make the brand more ‘inclusive.’ The classically feminine, long-eyelashed green M&M has swapped out her high heels for sneakers. The yellow, traditionally dim-witted M&M has been rebranded as a bright-eyed optimist. The orange M&M will reportedly now be most notable for his anxiety, an emotion that’s commonly associated with gen Z. Some have praised the rebrand, while others are laughing it off as a comical attempt to start a social movement of some kind. And some right-wing conservatives (notably Tucker Carlson) are flat-out offended.

“The refreshed M&M’s brand will include a more modern take on the looks of our beloved characters, as well as more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling,” parent company Mars said in a statement. “Fans will also notice an added emphasis on the ampersand to more prominently demonstrate how the brand aims to bring people together. M&M’s branding will also reflect an updated tone of voice that is more inclusive, welcoming and unifying, while remaining rooted in our signature jester wit and humor.”

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