Classic milk chocolate, peanuts, pretzel, crispy, or creamy peanut butter—whichever it may be, M&M’s kicks off its 75th anniversary this March with a flavorful yearlong celebration as the best-selling candy in the good ole USA.

With more than 400 million candy-coated chocolate morsels produced a day in the Mars factory, you can’t help but wonder how M&M’s has managed to stay at the top of America’s sweet tooth for so long. The 75-year-old candy has maintained its top-level status because of its adaptations to cultural trends, market demand and technological evolutions, making it a brand that we think totally gets it.

Download our How to Build a Winning Brand guide for key insights into how to develop a strong and sustainable brand for your organization. You’ll learn:

  • 6 branding best practices
  • 5 things the best brands do to stay competitive
  • 6 questions to ask yourself that could signal a rebrand

Download Branding Guide

Mars & Murrie 

Don’t you get annoyed when chocolate melts in your hand and not in your mouth? Same here. Back in 1941, during World War II, confectioner Forrest Mars sought a solution for chocolate’s summer heat setback. He partnered with Hershey’s William Murrie for the guaranteed flow of chocolate and the wheels started to churn. The duo came up with the idea of a morsel encased in a candy shell—and a classic was born, named M&M’s from the initials of its two founders.

The candy became an immediate favorite among soldiers. Uncle Sam dropped servings of M&M’s in soldiers’ C rations as sweet, portable calories. So how did the candy continue to serve a loyal community of war veterans from the 1940s to the American population today? Marketing.

“M&M’s is a brand that’s always adapted to the trends of the times, adopting variations to keep the consumer interested,” said Berta De Pablos-Barbier, Mars’ North American vp of marketing.

Milk Chocolate Marketing

Some trends come as quickly as they go, but M&M’s has filtered through the clutter to remain successful with flavor profile and marketing nuances. Do you remember the tan candy? If you’re a Millennial, probably not. In 1995, 11 million Americans voted and tan was nixed to make room for the new blue candy. The key is to listen to consumers. Based on popular demand, a standard bag of M&M’s has a mix of 30% brown, 10% blue, 10% orange, 10% green, 20% yellow and 20% red. Regardless of color, the candies have always had personalities of their own.

Back in the 1950s, intermissions between TV programs danced with personified consumer goods and jingled with catchy songs. The earliest spokescharacter, or “spokescandy” as M&M’s dubs, was introduced in the 1950s. The upbeat candies adopted the Willy Wonka “Candy Man” theme song, which has undergone various renditions throughout the years.

The candies metamorphosed in 1995 to what we have come to know today. Each color was personified with human characteristics: excitable, sarcastic and even sexual. You can’t deny that the green M&M is a total babe—we digress. As part of the marketing plan for the 75th anniversary this year, the “Candy Man” theme was mashed by Aloe Blacc and EDM giant, Zedd to echo a modernized catchy and electric feel.

“For three-quarters of a century, M&M’s has been infusing fun, laughter and smiles into the everyday lives of millions of fans through our colorful characters and Milk Chocolate Candies,” added de Pablos-Barbier.

de Pablos-Barbier continued to say, “M&M’s collaboration with Aloe Blacc and Zedd was not about creating a soundtrack for a new television spot. Rather, it’s about inspiring a new generation of fans to sing along and celebrate with us.”

75th Anniversary Celebrations

M&M’s is taking a look back on its brand evolution throughout the years and nodding to classic elements that have made it what we love today. Pablos-Barbier noted about repurposing classic brand identity elements for modern-day culture as,

“We’re setting up the beginning of the next 75 years.”

There are many fun events and celebrations you can expect during this sweet #CelebrateWithM milestone. You’ll see shelves of retailers nationwide to be stocked with retro M&M’s packaging, a fun consumer campaign for the next limited-edition candy flavor voted in by fans, and M&M’s active participation in the Red Nose Day Fund for the second year in a row. In addition, the brand will salute the candy’s grassroot audience of military personnel through Operation Gratitude a non-profit organization that sends care packages to the U.S. military.

“That’s the beauty of this brand,” said Tracey Massey, president of Mars North America. “You can really innovate all over the place. And that kind of flexibility may be what helps M&M’s stay on top…”

We’ll be keeping an eye out for the marketing and branding developments M&M’s has planned throughout the year. No matter the age or sweet tooth, we can all agree that these bite-sized candies are an American classic. For us, M&M’s is a brand that gets it, and has gotten it for the past 75 years.

Do you agree that M&M’s is a brand that gets it? Share your thoughts by commenting below!


Images courtesy of Adweek and M&M’s.