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M&M’s ‘rebrands’ as Ma&Ya’s as Super Bowl stunt unfolds via Maya Rudolph teaser ads

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By Kendra Barnett | Senior Reporter

January 27, 2023 | 9 min read

M&M’s continues to roll out its Super Bowl stunt with a faux announcement that the candy will get a new name – and a makeover inspired by its new spokesperson.

M&M's new logo and name

Maya Rudoloph unveiled M&M's playful new name / Mars

M&M’s says it’s renaming its candy Ma&Ya’s – or at least that’s what it would have consumers believe, per its latest teaser.

This is the latest chapter in the Mars brand’s Super Bowl stunt, which has received a great deal of attention on social media and across the media landscape. The seemingly faux announcement follows M&M’s statement on Monday that it would be taking an “indefinite pause” on its iconic ‘spokescandies’ and replacing them with comedian and actress Maya Rudolph.

M&M’s has indicated that the developments are part of a larger plot that will culminate during its Super Bowl LVII ad on February 12.

Another effort

The campaign appears to be a riff on the brand’s inclusivity-minded design refresh of its iconic characters last year. The effort turned out to be unexpectedly controversial, with social media users flooding feeds with memes and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson derisively dubbing the brand “woke M&M’s.”

The brand said in its Monday statement that the changes to its ‘spokescandies’ ended up being so “polarizing” that it decided to make a change and introduce “a spokesperson America can agree on” in the shape of Emmy-winning Rudolph.

Still, Monday’s Super Bowl teaser announcement only appears to have stoked the flames of the culture wars, with Time, NPR, NBC and other outlets revisiting the unwanted attention M&M’s has received in the last year. Consumers and commentators alike have posited that the elaborate farce is simply a play for more engagement and press coverage ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

Some have even taken to social media to criticize Mars’ business practices. Political journalist Sean Morrow tweeted a parody-style PSA of the brand’s Monday announcement, which spotlighted a 2021 lawsuit that accused Mars, Hershey and Nestlé of illegally using child labor in their operations.

Other brands, including A&W Restaurants, have poked fun at the manufactured drama in their own ways. “We always assume there will be interest and intrigue with our iconic brand, but this week’s outpouring yet again reminds us that consumers deeply care for and feel extremely close to the M&M’s characters,” a brand spokesperson said in a statement shared with The Drum. But perhaps the brand is relying on the old adage that any press is good press, some experts say. “It’s all promotion all the time. The brand can get attention, and is getting attention, from the fact that the right is calling them ‘woke.’ Hey, they were given lemons, so they’re making lemonade,” says Robert Passikoff, founder and president of market research firm Brand Keys. To appeal to a broader swath of consumers, the brand could have selected a new spokesperson who is viewed as more moderate, Passikoff suggests. “With all due respect to Maya Rudolph,” he says, “if you wanted to avoid being labeled ‘woke’ or ‘lefty,’ why not go with someone like Melissa Joan Hart or Elisabeth Hasselbeck or someone the right – who seems to be driving this promotional effort – would embrace?”

Hook, line and sinker

The brand piled onto the discourse with a 15-second teaser spot dropped yesterday in which Rudolph announces the rebranding, saying: “Since we all love M&M’s — and let’s face it, me — it only makes sense that I am renaming America’s favorite chocolate candies ‘Ma&Ya’s.” The candy will not only bear her name but also her face, the actress said in another short ad. “I love M&M’s – and you and I love me. The data proves it,” she says, smiling at the camera. “That’s why I’m happy to announce that soon America’s favorite chocolate candy will have a picture of yours truly painted right on them.” At the same time, the ‘spokecandies’ are said to be “pursuing other passions,” per a brand spokesperson. As further evidence that the characters aren’t likely disappearing any time soon, the orange M&M – whose revamp last year saw him embrace his mental health journey – has already launched a meditation-focused Spotify playlist since he was booted from the brand on Monday. Plus, the yellow M&M on Wednesday made an appearance in a Snickers Instagram post.

The brand spokesperson said that “America can watch the storyline resolve” during the Super Bowl on February 12. M&M’s will air a national ad, created in partnership with BBDO New York, during the third commercial break in the second quarter of the game.

UPDATED: The saga continues to get stranger with clams added to the mix.

See all the Big Game ads announced thus far on The Drum’s Super Bowl LVII Scoreboard.

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