M&M’s Reaches Back to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

The “Shelf to Stars” campaign pulls inspiration from the chocolate candy’s storied history.

April 27, 2016

WEST CHESTER, Penn. – M&M’s turns 75 this year and to celebrate, Mars Chocolate North America is pulling out all the stops, the Chief Marketer reports. The brand is reaching back to its roots in 1941, when the chocolate candies were created for the military as a snack for soldiers. Since then, M&M’s have flown in space and been given to White House visitors. A 1995 contest to select a new M&M’s color garnered 11 million votes. Blue won.

“We have a brand that is part of the American brand,” said Berta De Pablos-Barbier, vice president of marketing for Mars Chocolate North America, during a talk at the ANA Brand Activation Conference. To celebrate the candy’s 75th birthday, “we wanted to make it really big.”

The “Shelf to Stars” campaign incorporates M&M’s bold colors and flavors, as well as its genesis and long history into three major pieces: shelf, social and stars. “We didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about what is going to be that single selling message. We decided to communicate all of it because it’s part of the rich history of the brand,” she said.

Eye-catching displays in stores will direct consumers to the evolution of M&M’s characters, while new packaging, such as a portable bag, shows where the brand is headed. The company also has included a voting element (on bags and at #MMsFlavorVote) asking consumers to decide between Coffee Nut, Honey Nut and Chili Nut for the first flavor in the peanut line.

“Voting is something that is creating a lot of excitement in the store,” Pablos-Barbier said. “We want to make sure something exciting is happening all year long, and the voting starts soon.”

For the social and star sides, the celebration will jump online to spread the word via celebrities and bloggers about the anniversary. “We always say we want M&Ms to be cool,” she said. “We wanted to make sure people have passion for our brand.”