Revisited: M&M’s.com

While I was at a theater recently waiting for the movie to start, I temporarily pulled my attention away from the trailer for Kevin James’ Oscar-bound vehicle “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” to read my M&M’s wrapper. I wasn’t too surprised to discover there’s an M&M’s website (mms.com, not the mandm.com I might’ve expected, which is being cyber-squatted on by men who like Depeche Mode) and I promised myself I’d check out this internet curiosity the next time I couldn’t find anything better online.

Several months later, I made my first visit and was delighted to learn there’s a world of enchantment behind that hard candy shell. The folks from Mars – the candy company that owns M&M’s, not the single-celled life forms on the nearby planet – have put a lot of work into dreaming up ways they can sell all things M-related. They offer not just the candy itself, with colors and imprints I could hardly believe, but an immense variety of merchandise, recipes, games and allergen warnings. Let’s review the site map as soon as I down a handful of America’s favorite sedative-shaped chocolate treat.

Mmmmmmmmm! I love the taste of ampersands.

The home page currently features three revolving promotions: exploring the five fabulous flavors of new M&M premiums; the somewhat-outdated “make holiday magic with M&M’s and Martha (Stewart, I’m guessing, not Washington)”; and the “bring ‘M’ to the party” Super Bowl campaign. I’m guessing “M” is the cool new identity designed to appeal the younger generation, who love the brevity of single-lettered terms, as in “let’s do some ‘X’” and “I have to ‘P’”. This is where I also learned that the iconic “melts in your mouth, not in your hands” slogan has been replaced with “Always Fun,” which works, I guess, unless one of them gets lodged in your trachea.

The recipe section was largely predictable, taking just about any cake, cookie or pie concoction and throwing a bunch of M&Ms into the mix. There were a few interesting ideas that wouldn’t have occurred to me (“put ‘em in your coffee!”) as well as a number of others that struck me as a bit of a stretch. These would include the Autumn Turkey Casserole, Citrus Basil Sangria and something called “Plantains with Mex,” which I hope includes a type of southwestern flavoring and not an actual Mexican. In addition to the recipes was a related section called crafts, which offered creative ways to assemble the M’s into works of art. Among the more inspired suggestions were the Eight Nights of Light cupcakes (for the Jewish holiday known as Hanukkah, which Mars has apparently moved to January), a party pizza cookie with M&M’s standing in for pepperoni and anchovies (two of the aforementioned “five fabulous flavors” I suppose) and a holiday wreath made of hundreds of green M&Ms crazy-glued together into a wheel.

Other ways to incorporate the M&M experience into your personal lifestyle included bedding, clocks and, not surprisingly, extra-large sweatpants; online games such as “Red vs. Green,” “Flip the Mix” and “Shmuffleboard” (that’s right, spellcheck, shuffleboard with an “m”); and the company’s venture into sports marketing with a sponsorship of NASCAR driver Kyle Busch. This last section is particularly interesting to those of us in the South. We get to read about the entire crew – cleverly dubbed the guys who “show grit in the pit” by some pathetic corporate copywriter – including jack man Jeff Fender, who  during his downtime enjoys fishing, the music of Bad Company, and long walks on the beach without being hit by racecar. We also see Kyle himself, posing at the track alongside a cocky-looking M dressed in a fireproof suit, because though he won’t melt in your hand, he doesn’t do real well with 900-degree gasoline fires. We get to read extensively about Kyle’s 2008 season, lowlighted by a nineteenth-place finish in Miami, a solid eighth in Phoenix and “surviving crash-filled Talladega despite damage from a late-race accident” to celebrate his birthday May 2 with M&M candies and “finding his inner M.”

Another way that Mars is trying to engage the candy-buying public is with the opportunity to create your own virtual characters. To get you started, they show a group of anthropomorphic sweets sitting around a breakroom table with coffee (WATCH OUT!!) and “Hi my name is” tags identifying them as Stacy, Naomi, Larry, Tony and Mike. A few of these guys are what you might call slightly edgy-looking – no body piercings or purple hair but a tattooed “m” on their chins. We see another set of unnamed characters standing proudly in front of a picture of an actual 50-foot M&M-styled Statue of Liberty holding her beacon skyward near the Brooklyn Bridge in 2007. One of these characters does have a mohawk, perhaps in recognition that Lady Liberty welcomes the tired, the wretched and the haircut-impaired.

My favorite part of the mm.com website is where you can order personalized M&M’s with words, faces and colors of your choosing. The faces consist primarily of the characters noted above and the colors include just about any pastel you can imagine. The words, however, are subject to a list of do’s and don’ts. The do’s include the requirement to use nice words, be cheerful, have fun and be expressive, just as long as you don’t take your basic American freedoms too far. You can’t use obscenities, proper nouns like business, celebrity or product names and, “to avoid any confusion and keep everyone safe, we will not print any reference to prescription drugs, especially those that are in pill form.” To drive this last point home, they show a diagonal “no” slash through a candy that reads “Mary’s pills.”

Finally, there’s the boilerplate part you see on just about every commercial website, offering basic facts about the company. We learn that Mars also makes Uncle Ben’s rice, Combos snack crackers, Seeds of Change for the home gardener, and a disturbing quantity of cat food varieties, including Whiskas, Sheba and Pedigree. An ingredients section talks mostly about potential allergens in their products, with additional unnerving references to bass, cod, crab and shrimp (hopefully these are in the cat foods, not candies like Skittles and Snickers.)

Then there’s a store locator to help you find where to buy M&M’s. It’s hard to imagine that locating the ubiquitous dark brown bag we all know and love is really a problem, unless perhaps you’re on safari in Kenya. I keyed in the zip code where I’m writing this post and found that there are bags for sale in the drugstore across the street, the gas station opposite that, the bookstore on the other corner, and the dollar store three doors down. In total, there are 29 outlets within ten miles of my house.

I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about this fine all-American product and what makes it so special. Watch for more website reviews in future Friday postings.

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One Response to “Revisited: M&M’s.com”

  1. fakename2 Says:

    I don’t know…a shrimp-flavored M&M might be a welcome change. The main thing I remember about M&M’s is the huge campaign they did when they started making blue ones. I could hardly wait to buy my next package and get one.

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