Mars Gives M&M’s a Face

CHICAGO Mars Snackfood USA just got even more personal with its customized candy business by allowing consumers to print faces on M&M’s.

The move marks the launch of M&M’s Faces. Starting next month, consumers can visit MyMMs.com, upload a photo and order a batch of M&M’s with a face and personal message printed on the candy shell. The leading chocolate brand announced the news at the National Confectioners Association’s All Candy Expo in Chicago this week. TV, print and digital will support.

“I think this is the biggest idea at this show,” said Jim Cass, vp, gm of Mars Direct, Hackettstown, N.J., which manages My M&M’s and My Dove brands. “There’s nothing more personal that you could put on anything than your face.”

Where other marketers may be reticent to let go of the reins of a top brand, Mars has a heritage of allowing consumers to define M&M’s. In a 1995 promotion, consumers voted blue to be the next M&M color. Last year, Mars launched the My Inner M&M effort that directed consumers to create their own animated M&M’s character on BecomeAnMM.com.

“The consumers aren’t recreating the brand, they enhance it,” said Cass. “The brand essence is fun, and they simply redefine that.”

My M&M’s brand initially handled messages for birthdays, holidays and special events such as weddings and graduations. Since its inception, the customized candy business has sold 1 million bags of personalized candy, which costs about $9 a pound, not including the cost of packaging that the customer selects.

Consumer orders are still the biggest source of revenue for Mars Direct, but businesses have became the division’s fastest growing source of orders since the division began printing company logos last year, said Cass. The unit also began printing the logos of Major League Baseball teams.

Printing personalized messages on M&M’s started as a small R&D project in late 2004. The pieces caught the eye of a senior executive who urged testing whether the printed product would sell online. After six months of selling about eight bags of personalized candy a week, orders eventually grew to a point where the company decided to add more manufacturing capacity dedicated to making M&M’s for the personalized candy business.