Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
ATLANTA — Earlier this year, Mars shocked the internet when it unveiled new looks for its M&M's characters. Gone were Green's iconic go-go boots, replaced by sneakers. Online, mayhem ensued.
Now, M&M's is making another, bigger change — this time, it's adding a brand new character to the mix. Meet Purple: She's peanut, she sings, and she doesn't wear high heels (she sports lace-up boots).
The purple peanut M&M is the first new character in 10 years, according to the brand.
"Purple has been in the works for a very long time, for years," said Jane Hwang, global vice president of M&M'S. "This was about ensuring that the entire crew, the entire cast of spokescandies, were reflecting the world that we're living in."
Purple has a specific personality — quirky, confident and just a little awkward. Her debut comes with a song, "I'm Just Gonna Be Me," which can be seen in a video online and streamed on platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.
This doesn't mean that a purple M&M is coming to bags of Peanut M&M's, however.
The new character will appear in stores, on the M&M's website and on some limited edition packaging, said Hwang. And customers will be able to buy purple M&M's online, an option that was already available. But when it comes to a regular bag of peanut M&M's, purple fans are out of luck.
That could be a new source of outrage.
In the mid-90s, people voted for blue to replace tan in bags of the candy. In 2002, M&M's once again asked people to vote, this time for a color that would be added for just a limited time. Purple won, but didn't stick around for long.
Online, people frequently ask why there are no purple M&M's. Some bemoan the missed opportunity in the 1990s to make purple a permanent addition to the lineup. Some even think the vote was rigged.
Still, the new character, while not an actual new candy, is an acknowledgment from M&M's that people are pining for purple.
"We've heard for a long time that purple is certainly a consumer favorite," said Hwang.
But the brand is really focusing on the characters, rather than the actual edible candies, she noted.
'Give green her boots back'
When M&M's made changes to its characters' footwear early this year, the idea was to make them more current and relevant, with characters that, Mars hopes, will make people feel like they belong. The new footwear was supposed to help telegraph that message. Orange finally got a pair of shoes with tied laces, Brown got lower heels, and others also got subtle updates to their style.
But there was an outsized reaction to Green's new kicks.
An opinion piece in the Washington Post declared "The M&M's changes aren't progressive. Give Green her boots back." In a provocatively-headlined article, Rolling Stone described the change as "nothing more than tectonic." Thousands have signed a petition to "keep the green M&M sexy."
People are known to have strong feelings about things online, particularly changes to beloved characters. When Lola Bunny got a new look for the new Space Jam movie, for example, fans were outraged.
But for M&M's, reaction to the character makeover was "unprecedented," said Hwang. "We were incredibly overwhelmed," she noted. "Now we know for certain that M&M's is a cultural icon."
So when it came to the new purple character, Hwang said, M&M's didn't take the reaction to Green into account. Purple "had nothing to do ... with the commentaries we saw about Green," she said.
And for now, at least, M&M's has no plans to restore Green's look.
"The characters ... are continuously evolving to reflect the times that we're living in," Hwang said, adding that the brand hopes consumers will "get to know our characters for much more than their footwear."
So will the go-go boots ever make a comeback? Hwang answered slyly, "You never know."