M&M Redesign: Misdirection or Missed Intention?

Is the redesign of the M&M’s mascots an attempt to distract from child slavery lawsuits?

The first look at the new designs from the M&M’s YouTube channel—note the change in shoes.

The first look at the new designs from the M&M’s YouTube channel—note the change in shoes.

Ella Whalen, Staff Writer

On January 19th, Mars Chocolate announced on its M&M’s YouTube channel that their mascot candy pieces received a minor redesign. Notably, their shoes were changed to sneakers, including Ms. Green’s go-go boots, and Ms. Brown’s heels were lowered. This somehow stirred controversy due to its claim at being ‘inclusive’ and ‘progressive’, causing the likes of Tucker Carlson to be upset the female mascots are “less sexy.” This response then stirred counter-controversy mocking said people for being attracted to a mascot for a chocolate brand.

In the midst of this, some have claimed that this redesign is a PR stunt by Mars Chocolate. A viral tweet from user @von_owie claims that at the moment, Mars is facing a lawsuit for child slavery in Africa, and that the redesign “is a master class in ‘look over here instead.’” She linked an article from The Guardian detailing such a case that occurred in February 2021, over 11 months ago. Further research yields that the case in particular ended in July.

Other cases about child slavery against Mars and other chocolate companies, such as Hershey’s and Nestle, have been filed before, and have continued through November. Each time, the courts have dismissed these lawsuits due to how all the slavery occurs outside the United States and how the companies involved largely refuse to trace their cocoa back to the slave farms. The case cited on Twitter ended at the Supreme Court, which upheld the previous cases and ruled that the companies could not be sued for using child labor abroad. 

This does not necessarily mean that the redesign isn’t for PR, though. Mars has frequently pledged to remove child labor from its chocolate production—as early as 2005. The resurgence of lawsuits over it in November could have lead to the company ‘laying bait’ to stir controversy in a separate direction—a ‘look over here instead’ strategy as @von_owie puts it.