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Controversy Explodes Over M&M’s New Packaging

The limited-edition pack sparked fiery debate on social media from the left and the right for its gender statement.

Lisa McTigue Pierce

January 11, 2023

2 Min Read
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Image courtesy of Mars Inc.

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We’re living in divisive times. It seems the one thing everyone can agree on is that we don’t agree on anything. From a social unrest and political upheaval perspective, we’ve been here before. I just re-watched The Trial of the Chicago 7 movie last night about the riots in 1968, and cried all over again at the unfairness, injustice, and nastiness in our world — from multiple sides.

In case you can’t tell, this is an opinion piece.

On January 5, we shared the news about M&M’s new package, which shows only female characters — including its latest addition: Purple. Brand owner Mars created this pack of all-female characters to “celebrate women everywhere who are flipping the status quo.” The limited-edition product features the female trio spokescandies — Purple, Brown, and Green — flipped upside down on the “inspirational” packaging.

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M&M’s plans to donate almost a million dollars to various organizations devoted to supporting women. That includes $1 from every pack sold, (up to $500,000), an additional $300k for donations outside of the limited-edition packs, and 10 $10k grants.

Such positive actions in the name of inclusion, right?

 

Not quite the reaction expected.

CNN picked up the news, along with many other outlets. The media exposure sparked a social media storm of people praising Mars for its sensitivity … and blasting Mars for its insensitivity.

It makes sense that brands would use packaging to communicate with consumers on important social issues, even controversial ones like gender identify and equality.

It makes sense that brands would use packaging to communicate with consumers on important social issues, even controversial ones like gender identify and equality. Packaging is powerful for delivering messages, as well as products, because it is the one touchpoint that consumers see for sure when buying a product.

As an old-school journalist, I’m glad to see people freely speaking their minds — on this and other serious social matters. I just wish more people were listening to different opinions as well, to better understand someone else’s perspective.

Here’s a spattering of some of the more repeatable reactions to M&M’s new package. Not all of the comments on social media were family friendly. You’ll have to find those yourself.

 

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About the Author(s)

Lisa McTigue Pierce

Executive Editor, Packaging Digest

Lisa McTigue Pierce is Executive Editor of Packaging Digest. She’s been a packaging media journalist since 1982 and tracks emerging trends, new technologies, and best practices across a spectrum of markets for the publication’s global community. Reach her at [email protected] or 630-272-1774.

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