M&M’s: Sugar-Coated Success

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Posted: February 3, 2015, 2:50 p.m.
by Michelle Pierce.

It’s the middle of July, and the summer sun is shining down on your back. You reach into your bag and pull out that chocolate bar you have been craving all day. As soon as you begin to tear back the shiny, plastic wrapper, a flow of melted chocolate slowly begins to seep out all over your hands.

I’m sure we have all been in this sticky situation at one point in our lives, but ever since 1941 the well-renowned M&M’s candy is still beating the heat.

Where it all started
While manufacturing candy bars for troops during the Spanish Civil War, Forrest Mars Sr. began to notice soldiers snacking on small, chocolate pellets covered in a hard, sugary shell. According to the company history, “In an age when sales of chocolate typically dropped off during summer months due to the lack of air conditioning, Forrest was thrilled by the prospect of developing a product that would be able to resist melting in high temperatures.” Eagerly returning home to the United States to begin his business, Forrest partnered with Bruce Murrie, the son of Hershey executive William Murrie, to ensure a steady supply of chocolate and sugar. The partnership of ‘Mars’ and ‘Murrie’ is represented in the name of their product — M&M’s.

The company history states that “after the United States entered the war, the candies were exclusively sold to the military, enabling the heat-resistant and easy-to-transport chocolate to be included in American soldiers’ rations.”

As the war came to an end, the hard-shelled candies became available to the civilian public, and Forrest became the sole owner of the M&M’s brand at Mars Inc. For more than 70 years, M&M’s continues its global success as a leading brand in the candy industry. The recognizable, candy shell makes M&M’s one of the most famous candy treats in the MMworld.

Brand Success
“I believe M&M’s has managed to remain a leading brand by delivering a quality product that all generations have continued to love,” former M&M’s Regional Sales Manager Maria Early said. “Not only are M&M’s fun and colorful, but Mars has continued to be focused on a quality product that has built a global brand of followers.”

According to Fortune, Mars stands as the third-largest private company in the U.S. It represents many global brands, including Pedigree, M&M’s and Wrigley.

Davin Wickstrom, business development director at Mars, expressed how the company successfully operates using only five principles — quality, responsibility, mutuality, efficiency and freedom.

“As quality as one of our key principles at Mars as a global company, we focus on what we can do well, and we do it to the best that we can,” Wickstom said.

Early discussed the key steps of building a brand: First, the company must have a quality product to which its consumers will remain loyal. Once the brand is developed, advertising and marketing are critical. Finally, consumers must feel a connection to the brand that will influence their purchasing behavior.

“Personally I am very brand loyal to products that I know and trust,” Early said. “I purchase based on previous experience; therefore, when I find a product I love, I stick with it.”

Wickstrom explained how his team at Mars uses the five company principles to strategize their brand success.

“Mutuality, being one of our five principles, sets the tone with our business relationships so there’s mutual benefits created,” Wickstrom said. “So even if that’s marketing brand awareness, we want to make sure that the end-user or the guy at the convenience store or the grocery store is also feeling that mutual benefit as well.”

Bringing the brand to life
In 1954, the prominent M&M’s spokes candies and slogan, “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth — not in your hand,” made an appearance in the initial TV advertising.

According to Highbeam Business, “The ‘cast’ of Characters reinforces the distinctive product quality and overall brand essence as well as creates a strong bond between M&M’S Candies and consumers.”

Early agreed, expressing how “consumers can relate to the humor and wit that [the] adorable characters portray.” She noted that M&M’s has built a connection with its audience that transcends into all generations.

The M&M’s characters bring the brand to life through their bright colors and unique, relatable personalities. They are constantly engaging with consumers through entertaining posts on M&M’s social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as TV and print ads. They relate to current events that capture the consumers’ interests such as holidays, sporting events and the hottest trends.

In 2004, Mars instituted My M&M’s, giving consumers the ability to personalize the shell of their M&M’s candy with a picture, logo or message of their choice. This worldwide sensation led to a 41 percent increase in conversation rates, contributing to the 31 percent boost in ROI. Today, consumers are customizing their candies for birthdays, holidays, proposals, weddings and so much more.

From its sweet, delicious taste to its admired “spokescandies,” the unique and instantly recognizable M&M’s brand easily stands out from competing candies.

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