BBDO's print ads for the treats--vanilla ice cream bars on a stick with a chocolate coating and colored shells replicating the look of the famous candies--cleverly turn the brand's equally famous saying "Melts in your mouth, not in your hand" on its head.
The ads show the treats and proclaim: "Melts in your mouth and in your hand."
Meanwhile, two TV spots feature the M&M's characters Red and Yellow. In one, Yellow dramatically predicts his demise to Red as they shiver and huddle for warmth in a frigid environment, which turns out to be a grocery cooler. "What happened to my M?," asks Yellow as he emerges unscathed from the cooler, looking down at his belly. "It's called shrinkage," replies Red, alluding to the somewhat naughty catch phrase made ubiquitous by a "Seinfeld" episode.
In the other, Yellow observes that Red's Ice Cream Treat looks just like him, but Red denies it ... until Yellow pops Red's eyes out and sticks them on the ice cream bar.
Marketing support for the launch will add a touch of nostalgia. In mid-June through mid-July, "Team Ice Cream," dressed in traditional ice cream jockey white pants and shirts but with the addition of colorful (M&M's colors, of course) bowties, will visit high-traffic areas in Boston, Hartford/Springfield, Conn., New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Each stop will feature an "Ice Cream Oasis"--an oxymoronic "interactive old-fashioned ice cream parlor" where the team will give out coupons and samples. In addition, in some cities, a restored 1950s ice cream truck will make an appearance.
The M&M's brand already boasts six varieties of ice cream (including cones, sandwiches, ice cream cake and vanilla fudge ice cream with M&M's minis).
The new ice cream line's slightly edgier-than-usual advertising is nevertheless clearly in line with Mars' seemingly endless variations on engaging consumers via the characters and the colors theme. Last year's effort, the "My Inner M&M" campaign, had consumers creating their own animated M&M's characters on BecomeAnMM.com.
Meanwhile, the extremely successful campaign to get American consumers and businesses to order personalized M&M's--a business that grew out of selling small numbers of the personalized candies for weddings and other special occasions starting in late 2004--continues to gather momentum ... and profits. The personalized versions--available with the consumer's face on them as well as a personalized message as of this past May--go for about $9 per pound (not including any desired special packaging) versus about $3 per pound for standard M&M's.
And whereas virtually every product is now in search of ways to customize, the genius of this M&M's brand extension lay in recognizing how well the brand lends itself to personalization, as one former Masterfoods USA executive noted to Foodengineering.com. Personalization doesn't work for commodity items--"There has to be a connection with the product," said John Helferich. "It depends on the emotional equity of the brand."
"M&M's has a personal relationship with consumers," agrees Lynne Doll, president of PR firm Rogers Group. "Everyone has his or her favorite color--I bought personalized ones for my husband in his favorite color, in fact. That kind of relationship is what every brand covets, and it's the reason that M&M is so successful with product extensions."