A song that’s been trending on iTunes for months was created as part of an M&M’s promo. Mars helped it succeed by treating each channel like its own language.

M&M’s are ubiquitous, but when the candy was introduced, you couldn’t buy it anywhere. Back then, it was only available to soldiers during World War II, having been created to include something sweet in military rations. The eventual “melts in your mouth, not in your hand” slogan was a reference to the hot barracks.

M&Ms ww2

M&M’s has come a long way over the past 75 years. Mars Chocolate celebrated the iconic candy’s milestone birthday in a way that resulted in a huge brand lift, thanks to brand’s polyglot digital strategy.

“The big mistake marketers make is, they have a piece of content and think of digital channels as being channels like NBC and FOX, and it’s not the same thing. Think of different channels as having different languages,” says Berta De Pablos-Barbier, vice president of marketing for Mars Chocolate North America. “You identify the nugget and then twist the language for Vine, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram.”

In this case, the nugget was a song – a remake of Sammy Davis, Jr.’s “The Candy Man” by Zedd and Aloe Blacc – that launched on Spotify and iTunes, which led to social media, which led to the full video on YouTube, which has been viewed more than 3 million times.

Rather than blasting out the content en masse, Mars tailored it for all these different channels and mediums, and released it little by little. De Pablos-Barbier compares this approach to sand art – that staple of seventh birthday parties that involves funneling colored sand into bottles – because each layer allows for discovery by a different audience.

“It wasn’t about branding. It was about creating a great song. There’s no mention (Read more...) M&M’s; we just wanted to connect through emotion,” says De Pablos-Barbier.

Though Mars won’t share any specific figures, De Pablos-Barbier adds that “there were a lot of smiles around the office. There was a direct correlation between the excitement around the campaign, and sales.”

Two years ago, Zedd, along with British singer Foxes, won a Grammy Award for the song “Clarity.” Still, “Candyman,” which charted on iTunes and still ranks on the dance tracks chart nearly three months later, was successful enough that Google assumes you’re searching for it.


The song’s footprint was magnified by user-generated content (UGC). Mars launched a site, Remix, on which users can create and share their own versions of “Candyman.” Because the song did so well online, Zedd and Aloe Blacc have been performing it offline, including on Good Morning America and at Coachella.

Mars also repackaged “Candyman” in the form of 60-second TV ads that debuted on The Voice., which measures activity around TV ads in real time, called them out as being among the most engaging so far this year. In addition, the campaign helped Mars Chocolate nab the title of “Marketer of the Year” in the 18th annual FAB Awards recognizing food and beverage brands.

“By the time [“Candyman”] got to traditional marketing, people knew about it,” says De Pablos-Barbier, who thinks it was such a hit because it was a good fit for the brand.

It was authentic because we had the rights to that song. If we didn’t have it in our history, we wouldn’t have done it,” she adds.

February 28 was the day M&M’s officially launched, but Mars is recognizing the big birthday all year. Other celebrations include donating $750,000 worth of candy to be included in military care packages, hosting a vote for a new peanut M&M’s flavor (remember how we picked the blue one back in 1995?) and calling on consumers to #MakeMLaugh with M&M’s-inspired art as part of the Red Nose Day charity event.


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