I’m on a team at work where each week someone is asked to bring “inspiration” to the next meeting. I always bow out — usually not so gracefully — because it just seems like more work. And honestly, inspiration isn’t one of those things you find. It’s something that finds you.
But the M&M rebrand, well, I saw it and I was inspired.
Rebrands are painful — they require your heart, soul, and intense dedication to getting every nuance right. The very nature of a rebrand requires the people updating, refreshing or creating a new brand to interpret. When you share your interpretation, which requires you to unpack your background, opinions, viewpoint, and feelings, you’re left vulnerable. And then inevitably you’re assessed on how you make that very personal perspective come to life, whether visually, verbally, or otherwise.
So, yeah, my first reaction to the M&M rebrand is that it’s silly, goofy, stupid. But when I thought about it from a more personal perspective, I realized just how amazing this was. I immediately equate it to the rebrand my company is currently going through and the blood, sweat, and tears that the people who turned the thoughts and vision into words and visuals went through. You work for weeks and months interpreting a single concept. You pour your heart, mind, experience, and soul into the process to turn it into some simple and easy. You try to find a way to explain it so that others will understand where you’re coming from and going…and then all you hear is “fine” or “change this” or “I don’t know.” In other words, it’s just not perfect.
Full disclosure: anyone in a creative field learns early on to develop a thick skin. You either learn to accept feedback and adapt it — because the customer is always right, even when that customer is the person at the next desk over — or you don’t and you get out. On the rare occasion a creative fights back, it’s usually a sign that they’ve been asked too much, pushed too far, and just need a break. When they relax and later return, they’re back to their old self, the one that accepts everyone else’s vision as right, even if it doesn’t jibe with their own.
Still, when it comes to the M&M rebrand, it’s fun to apply what we know about rebranding to this specific situations. There were definitely questions: “Is it still cool for green be a slut? Was it ever? Could we make that M&M a little less hot, a little more dowdy?” “Would people connect with orange if they understood what he had been though in life? Should we publish his his backstory?” and “Only insurrectionist wear cowboy boots, so that’s not an option. But we could try dressing them in hip-again UGGs.” There were interpretations. There were changes. It was hard.
Still, deep down, this rebrand was always a very calculated decision and the subsequent and open mockery was anticipated (and welcome). Yes, the characters were outdated and no one had been talking about it in ages. New flavors didn’t really help because the original was still the best. Honestly, the food itself has become almost an afterthought, taken for granted, conservative and boring. “Can we make M&Ms more relevant, more current? Well, sure. I mean, M&Ms are candy and no one actually expects candy to be woke, but what if …”
Are the media’s mockery and the barrage of terrible tweets worth it? Probably, although you know that deep down, for the people who came up with the direction, they still kind of hurt. And, just like New Coke, colorful candies. What if people turn on you? What if you’re the new flavor of critical race theory? What if they think M&Ms are laced with microchips like the vaccines they refuse to get.
Or what if, simply, your vision and interpretation is the one they latch onto, tear apart, destroy, or shred? Or even worse, people don’t notice, care, or say anything at all? Because all press is good press … as long as you get people talking.