The recent M&M controversy has stirred up more than just candy in its vibrant assortment. It began when Mars Wrigley decided to refresh its beloved spokescandies, aiming to make them more inclusive and representative of today’s society. However, this attempt, particularly the redesign of the candy characters’ shoes and the introduction of a new “plus-sized” Purple M&M, sparked a tidal wave of reactions.

In this article, Business2Community dives into the candy dish to serve readers the complete, well-sourced facts surrounding the M&M controversy. From the initial ad campaign adjustments pre-Super Bowl to the indefinite pause on the official long-term roles of the iconic mascots, we’ll examine how Mars Wrigley’s intention to empower women and achieve equity among its characters collided with societal divides.

M&M Controversy – Key Facts

  • Mars Wrigley’s decided to redesign the M&M characters, adjusting aspects like the green M&M’s footwear from high heels to sneakers, aiming for a more inclusive representation.
  • Critics, including notable figures like Tucker Carlson, raised objections, claiming the changes were unnecessary and detracted from the candies’ traditional appeal.
  • Mars Wrigley’s response involved temporarily pausing the use of their spokescandies in ads, only to reintroduce them with a humorous twist in a Super Bowl ad featuring Maya Rudolph.

The Story of the M&M Controversy

The M&M controversy unfolded when Mars Wrigley announced a shift in its marketing strategy, replacing its long-standing promotional cartoon characters with celebrated actress and comedian Maya Rudolph. This decision came in the wake of a divisive reaction to changes made to the M&Ms characters, particularly in the design of their footwear, symbolizing a broader attempt at brand modernization and inclusivity.

The Introduction of the New Spokescandies

In January 2022, Mars Wrigley unveiled a series of updates to their iconic M&M spokescandies.

Eager to position their brand as forward-thinking and inclusive, the company modified the spokescandies’ appearances to reflect a broader range of body types and updates to their wardrobe, such as changing the green M&M’s footwear from high heels to sneakers and brown M&M’s stilettos to lower heels.


Additionally, the introduction of the purple M&M as part of the brand campaign for empowering women “Flipping the Status Quo,” which was meant to illustrate Mars Wrigley’s commitment to diversity. However, these modifications, particularly the shoe changes, became the flashpoint for a broader discussion on social media and beyond, leading to a polarized public response that straddled the lines of brand evolution and societal values.

Tucker Carlson’s Critique

The uproar over the M&M’s female characters swapping their heels for flats epitomized the unexpected battlegrounds of today’s culture wars.

Right-wing commentators, most notably Tucker Carlson, lambasted the “less sexy” redesign as deeply unappealing and symbolic of a greater societal shift towards androgyny.


Imagine being this upset about M&M’s. #tuckercarlson #mandms #candy

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Carlson’s critiques exemplified a broader discontent, framing the candy mascots’ footwear change as emblematic of an ongoing erosion of traditional gender norms.

Carlson decision to denounce the M&M’s as “Woke” further fueled the fire, throwing the company into the spotlight. His discontent was not only with the sneakers and boots of the candies but also with the introduction of a new “obese” Purple M&M, which he found totally androgynous and emblematic of a society capitulating to obesity.

Carlson’s comments spotlighted the profound division in public perception over what many believed was just a harmless redesign to achieve brand modernization and inclusivity.

An online petition to “keep the green M&M sexy” and other reactions fueled the controversy.

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Mars Wrigley’s Statement: “America, Let’s Talk”

In early 2023, Mars Wrigley issued a statement announcing its intention to pause its iconic spokescandies, stating that it had not expected the public to notice the updates.

The decision came after recognizing the characters’ increasingly polarizing nature among fans and critics alike.

Mars Wrigley’s acknowledgment of this division demonstrated a commitment to promoting unity and joy through its brand, rather than inadvertently contributing to the culture wars that seem to have enveloped even the most benign of products, such as a candy’s shoes.

To steer the brand through these choppy waters, celebrated actress and comedian Maya Rudolph was introduced as the new spokesperson for M&M’s.

Maya’s Debut as the New M&M’s Spokesperson

Renowned for her versatile roles across various entertainment mediums, Maya Rudolph’s debut as the face of M&M’s was strategically planned for the 2023 Super Bowl broadcast, signaling a fresh, albeit nostalgic, direction for the brand.

However, Rudolph was quickly replaced by the original candy mascots in a postgame “press conference.” The official long-term spokescandies, embroiled in controversy after recent revamps to their appearances for inclusivity, made a triumphant return.

The Consequences of the M&M Controversy

Throughout the unfolding drama, M&M’s maintained a conspicuous silence on Twitter, choosing not to engage directly with the swirling controversy. Instead, the brand’s social media channels focused on spreading holiday cheer, a stark contrast to the polarizing debates happening elsewhere.

This strategy of avoidance, while preserving a positive brand image, left some fans and critics alike clamoring for a more direct response to the accusations and discussions dominating the internet.

By opting not to engage in the heated debates and criticisms on social media, the company sought to maintain a neutral stance, essentially attempting to keep the peace among its diverse consumer base.

This period of quiet was not merely about avoidance; it was a crucial phase for the brand to regroup and consider a thoughtful approach to the backlash. This strategy culminated in the Super Bowl ad featuring Maya Rudolph, which served as a clever and light-hearted re-introduction of the M&M spokescandies.

The commercial was designed to bridge divisions, appealing to a broad audience by leveraging humor and nostalgia, thus signaling Mars Wrigley’s intent to move past the controversy with a unifying message.

This approach highlights the importance of timing and tone in addressing public relations challenges, demonstrating that sometimes silence can provide the necessary space for a brand to craft a response that aims to mend fences and re-ignite positive engagement with its audience.

What Can We Learn From the M&M Controversy?

The M&M controversy raises several critical lessons for brands in the modern age. Firstly, Mars Wrigley’s initial silence and careful handling of the situation highlight the importance of strategic communication.

Instead of rushing to comment amid the uproar, Mars took time to assess the situation, demonstrating that not every controversy demands immediate public engagement. This patience allowed the company to craft a more measured response that aligned with its brand values and broader marketing strategy.

By eventually using the backlash as a springboard for a publicity stunt — pausing the spokescandies and bringing them back — Mars showed resilience and a savvy understanding of contemporary media dynamics.

The company recognized that brand changes could polarize opinions but managed to turn a potentially detrimental situation into a moment of unity and brand strengthening. This reveals a crucial consideration for all brands: recognizing the potential for polarization in brand evolution is essential, but so is finding creative ways to weave narratives that reinforce brand identity and values. Even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing and can “break the internet.”

In conclusion, the M&M controversy offers valuable insights into handling brand controversies with grace and strategic foresight. Mars Wrigley’s approach teaches us that while brand evolutions may divide opinions, careful, measured responses and leveraging moments of backlash can ultimately reinforce a brand’s core message and bond with its audience.


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