Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2002 / 22 Shevat, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

A Candy of Color -- CALL it "the rainbow coalition of candy." When it comes to diversity of color, M&M's have it over any other brand of candy you might name, short of jelly beans. In the beginning M&M's were red, green, yellow, brown, orange, and (believe it or not) violet when they were first produced in 1941. Then, in 1949, violet was replaced by tan. Forty-six years later, tan was replaced by blue, and now the company that makes M&M's are asking consumers to vote on a brand new color to add to the mix.

The company says that market research has shown that the three top color contenders are purple, pink and aqua. From March 6 to May 31 candy lovers in 78 countries will be able to vote on which of the three they'd like to see added to the existing group. Votes will be taken on the company Web site and through a toll-free telephone number. The winning color will be announced on June 19.

A spokesman for the candy company said that the new color will be available in all flavors of M&M's beginning in August and throughout the rest of the year. After that the company will decide whether to include it permanently based on consumer reaction.

M&M's have been available for quite some time in other color combinations in keeping with various holidays, seasons of the year and most recently even the 9-11 attacks -- producing a special red, white and blue mix with a portion of the profits going to charity. I've thought for some time that M&M's should have come out with the red, white and blue theme for Independence Day. It's a marketing natural. So are lots of other holidays that the M&M company has somehow missed.

For instance, at Christmas they produce a red and green assortment, but what about a blue and white mix for Hanukkah? Would an all black assortment for Kwanza be insulting to black people? I don't know -- what does the marketing research tell us? How about silver and black for New Year's Eve parties? Halloween has the orange and black M&M's, and fall has the tan, brown and yellow colors. Pastel colors are created for Easter, and Valentine's Day has the pink and red, but there's no packages of all green candy for Saint Patrick's Day, and there should be. And while they're at it, why not all orange M&M's for the Protestant Irish? And let's have woodsy tones for Arbor Day and blues and greens for Earth Day, too.

Special occasions call for special M&M's. "It's a boy!" baby blue and "It's a girl!" baby pink colored M&M's are perfect for baby showers. And what would be more appropriate than white-on-white M&M's for formal weddings?

Why stop with holidays and seasons? We could have specially colored M&M's in honor of certain people, too -- you know, like Ben and Jerry's do with their ice cream. So we could have Jane Fonda Pinko and Governor Grey Davis Gray. The Michael Jackson M&M would start out black, but gradually get lighter. Elton John's M&M would be a lovely shade of lavender. Alan Greenspan's would be in the red. Get the idea?

There's just no shortage of marketing opportunities for M&M's if you really think about it. Take the flavors for example. Right now, there are plain and peanut and almond and crispy and peanut butter and even goat's milk for the Latin market. But there's much more that can be done. Think about all the nuts that haven't been utilized yet. Brazil nut M&M's could be big. And how about coffee M&M's for that quick pick-me-up. Maybe "Breakfast M&M's" for folks who can't take the time to sit down and eat. Instead of a peanut inside, there would be a little tiny egg.

Why not expand the franchise with other letters? No need to stop with "M&M." Do "A&A" and "F&F" and "Q&Q" -- go through the whole alphabet. Then mix up all the letters and package them under the name, "Alphabet Soup M&M's." Then after that is exhausted, go to numbers! I'm telling you, people will buy this stuff! Stamp the candy with different combinations of initials and people will look to buy the ones that match their own names -- just like they do coffee mugs and key chains.

Then make M&M's with Hebrew letters, Chinese characters, Egyptian hieroglyphics. Anything you can think of. Come on, you M&M marketing mavens! The growth potential of your brand is wide open. Go nuts!

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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