CAMPAIGNS: M&Ms displays an international flavor

PR Team: Masterfoods USA (Hackettstown, NJ) and Porter Novelli (New York) Campaign: Global Color Vote Time Frame: January - July 2002 Budget: $2 million

PR Team: Masterfoods USA (Hackettstown, NJ) and Porter Novelli (New York) Campaign: Global Color Vote Time Frame: January - July 2002 Budget: $2 million

Marketers with Mars' Masterfoods division felt the M&Ms brand, the world's leading candy, needed to be sweetened up. In the seven years since blue M&Ms were added to the mix, the candy has gone global, moving into new international markets and expanding its share in others. In the US, which makes up 70%-75% of global M&Ms sales, the "bull's-eye" target of 19-year-old males reflected a desire to cement the brand's positioning among youths, and Masterfoods wanted to broaden the brand's exposure with an international audience through the addition of a new color to be decided by a global vote. With marketing activities in 78 countries, says M&Ms brand communications manager Scott Hudler, it was to be "the largest and most fully integrated campaign in the company's history, and the first global campaign in the brand's history." Strategy The original launch plans called for an aggressive teaser campaign playing on unbranded "rallies" for each of the candidate colors - pink, purple, and aqua. September 11 changed all that, forcing the company to abandon its original schedule after 18 months of planning, and go back to the drawing board. Masterfoods and Porter Novelli settled on a more discreet strategy relying less on promotional events and more on media relations, while giving more leeway to its PR operations in international markets. Tactics The tripartite campaign was designed to generate coverage in three phases, with the announcement of the vote in January, the unveiling of the new color in July, and the rollout of the new mix in August. The trick would be keeping a steady buzz over the six months leading up to the unveiling of the winner. Masterfoods and Porter Novelli put forward the Red M&M character to serve as the public face of the campaign. Sound bites from Red were distributed on ANRs at the announcement of the vote, and the character was featured in a real-time animation SMT on the opening of the polls, plugging the vote in 48 interviews. To ensure national seeding of the story, advance releases went to the AP ahead of both the January announcement of the vote and the July unveiling of the winning color. The victor, purple, was revealed at a glitzy, star-studded event staged in New York to maximize coverage. Results Though just $2 million of the $25 million Masterfoods spent on the campaign in the US went to PR, with the remainder going to advertising, it was money well spent. M&Ms sales are up 21% on last year, and dense coverage of the result won Masterfoods 71% awareness of the new color of M&Ms in the US. Targeting of local news broadcasts and the talk-show circuit turned the vote into a pop-culture phenomenon, with reporters on CNBC's Squawk Box and hosts on NBC's Today donning ties and shirts in the colors of their favorite M&Ms. The campaign found its way into on-air banter from coast to coast, and kept its momentum as websites ran their own unofficial polls on the vote, and radio hosts encouraged listeners to voice their opinions on purple, pink, or aqua. Unprompted, a variety of groups stumped for their favorites, generating local coverage. Gay and lesbian community groups rallied for pink, while students and alumni at Abeline Christian University rallied for purple, their school color. Altogether, 10 million consumers in over 200 countries cast their votes. Future Masterfoods is gearing up for the final phase of the campaign, coinciding with the appearance of purple M&Ms on store shelves this month. The company is running an on-pack promotion offering consumers the chance to win 100 million yen ($850,000), and is putting together its plans for next year's campaign, which will again lead with PR. "It's a formula we're happy with," says Hudler.

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