By: Laurel Kutz
Most people think of M&Ms as a classic candy, the unchanging all-American chocolate treat. These candy-coated chocolates started as a wartime pick-me-up for American soldiers overseas during World War II. Unlike other chocolate candies at the time, M&Ms wouldn’t melt in your hand when you tried to eat them, which was an innovation that customers loved.
The original colors of M&Ms in 1941 were similar to what we know now with red, orange, yellow, green, brown, and purple. But by 1949, the Mars company switched out the purple M&M for tan, which some people can remember from up until 1995, when the company held a vote to replace the tan M&M with either blue, purple, or pink.
As heroic and patriotic as the beginnings of M&Ms are, the company still tries to innovate and possibly inspire its customers to be true to themselves, most notably through its reintroduction and rebranding of the purple M&M.
Instead of adding a new color of M&Ms to the bags, the Mars company decided to add a new “spokescandy” to their cast of different colored chocolates. Her name is Purple, and she aims to represent inclusivity and acceptance. This message is ultimately captured in her music video single “I’m Just Gonna be Me,” where Purple sings “...there's nobody else I wanna be.”
In addition to the debut single, the Mars company will donate $1 for each stream to the nonprofit Sing for Hope, an organization that “bring[s] hope, healing, and connection to millions of people in hospitals, care facilities, schools, refugee camps, transit hubs, and community spaces worldwide.”
Especially during the age of technology and social media that we are living in today, it is timely that Mars is trying to bring a positive change towards people’s relationships with each other. Many children and teens can feel ostracized and separated from society, so Mars’ efforts to emphasize a message of inclusion, confidence, and positive self-esteem is honorable.
At least the company recognizes the mental hurdles that people go through in their everyday life, and designed a character specifically for empowering them to be themselves.
Still, does this change go far enough?
After all, what is a nearly two-minute song really going to do to boost acceptance throughout the world and the customers of M&Ms? Not much, really.
Adding a new character to the M&Ms line-up is a nice gesture by the Mars company, but they must have not intended this addition to cause a major shift in societal trends and thinking. The Purple M&M could be another ploy for consumers to buy more M&M products, feeding more money into an already multi-billion dollar company.
To make real societal changes, we need to implore companies to be at the forefront for making a difference. For the particular issue of acceptance and inclusion, social media companies such as Meta and Twitter should donate to organizations and support political efforts that advocate for mental health visibility.
Still, the Purple M&M might be a first of many initiatives for companies to give back to their consumers and to help lead society in the right direction.