Woke Washing. Are you familiar with the term? In a nutshell, it’s when brands use advertising and social media to promote social issues without taking meaningful action.
In a move born in a board room and which not a single person asked for, candy-maker Mars Wrigley announced on Jan. 20, 2022, that it plans to refresh the multicolor mascots of its M&Ms to be more “inclusive” and have “more nuanced personalities.”
Yes, inclusion, understanding, and acceptance of all peoples regardless of what they look like, believe in, or identify with is great and can only help our world evolve into a better place for all.
But with the M&M announcement, it’s the case of a brand doing the absolute minimum but spending as much as they can to make sure that people know how “woke” they are in an effort to be more relatable to a more socially conscious, diverse consumer. Oh and as a side note, sell more candy.
The candy company decided to give each of the six characters a “fresh, modern take” on their traditional look and “more nuanced personalities to underscore the importance of self-expression and power of community through storytelling.” For their candy.
If we’ve learned anything from What Not To Wear, it’s that a good old-fashioned makeover solves all your problems —and that’s science.
The change is so subtle, The Today Show posted the before and after online and it felt like it was one of those brain teaser games where you have to spot the difference in the two pictures.
As a side note, change and social consciousness should not be hard to spot.
The biggest and perhaps most ridiculous “change” is that the green M&M, who typically sports her signature white go-go boots, is now rocking a pair of sneakers to reflect her effortless confidence.”
Brown, the other female character, has also slipped into something a little comfier — block heels, instead of her signature stiletto. She and the green M&M will also have a more friendly relationship than they’ve previously had, “together throwing shine and not shade.”
These girls melt in your mouth, not in your hands. Where is John Oliver when we need him?
Newsweek published a list in 2020 naming America’s Most Responsible Companies. Wrigley Mars was missing on a list that included Haliburton #163 and Dicks Sporting Goods #79, who uses every last woke washed breath to let you know they have female leadership and are empowering girls and women. Mars Wrigley didn’t make a list where Clorox is #43!
But hey, it’s just a list. As we all know, in the C-Suite a well-written press release can keep the public quiet and the investors happy.
What did they do to “create a world where everyone feels they belong and society is inclusive.” Following in the footsteps of every Bravo show, they decided to makeover the characters. Hey, real change starts with a makeover.
It’s not just the “girls,” it’s also the male M&M’s because if you zoom in real close you can see their yummy chocolate genitalia. The guys are getting some work done, but their work is more working on their inner self. The notoriously bossy Red will be kinder, and “Orange will acknowledge his anxiety.” Is he going to take a chill pill or a Tic Tac and be a much happier piece of candy?
An article in the Washington Post points out “If you want to make a man more progressive, you adjust his personality. If you want to update a woman, evidently, you give her new shoes.”
Decisions at major corporations don’t come quickly. The amount of money, resources (cuz’ you can’t say manpower), and time to make a fashion decision of this magnitude to finally change the M&M’s heel choice from stiletto to chunky heel is deplorable.
And while yes, according to wear-next.com, chunky heels are in style when they’re paired with the right look. You have to wonder how much time Andrew Clarke- the global president of Mars/Wrigley spent on this major progressive statement. Some Math for you – Clark makes roughly 2.7 million dollars a year and there are roughly 219 work days in a year, so if he spent a day, a single day working on this it’s about $12,328.
Add in creative teams, focus groups, graphic designers, media buys, and the magical public relations team that got this “news” on the Today Show and Good Morning America then you‘re talking well over seven figures to let the world know that Green no longer has to suffer from boot chafe and can kick it in class in a pair of what, Vans?
Let’s take a step back from the fashion, how about the message M&M is sending. Do real women only wear flats? Is a woman defined by her wardrobe?
In an internal communication at a medical devices company named after Costello’s partner, female employees were told they had to wear five pieces of jewelry as well as pantyhose and their managers were counting. So, maybe? That company was #139 on the list!
While it may seem short-minded and a complete miss, all one has to do is Google the management team of Mars to see there are a lot of folks who need SPF50, while they’re away at a corporate retreat in the Hamptons. They are as white as there as their Uncle Ben’s Rice … Oops, let’s call him Poppa Tio and give him a sombrero, that should do it.
The Washington Post points out: If Mars Wrigley were serious about updating its characters for a more diverse world, it would be less timid about it. The company could acknowledge the long-standing rumor that Green and Brown are in a romantic lesbian relationship. (Look it up! The evidence is all there!) .
Here’s a thought for Grant, Klaus, Barry, Paul, and Andrew (actual management names), instead of spending millions, and yes, millions were spent on rolling out the least progressive ad campaign since Billy Beer. How about next time, one of you has the girls in the steno pool, grab a pad and a pen to take a memo that says “donate the money instead.”
Can you imagine how happy Hoda and Savannah would be if you did something actually progressive with all that cash.
Or, separate the colors by making color-themed bags. Buy a bag of “Blue,” we donate to an Autism Charity, Red- Cancer, Yellow – An LGBTQ charity, Green- the environment, and on and on. Being a parent of a child on the Autism spectrum, I would actively seek out a “blue bag” if I knew it was supporting an autism-based charity.
Do some actual good, then let actual consumers thank you, instead of patting yourselves on the back with a press release. And a less stressed-out piece of candy.
We won’t go down the rabbit hole of “what are you putting into the candy to make is so stressed and should we be putting that into our bodies?”
After all the meetings, money and misguided messaging, they missed one important point. It’s just an M&M.