M&M’s Global Color Vote
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

M&M’s Global Color Vote

Throughout its 62-year history, the M&M’s brand successfully created and executed consumer franchise building events, using color as a means to increase consumer interaction with the product.

Paul Holmes

Throughout its 62-year history, the M&M’s brand successfully created and executed consumer franchise building events, using color as a means to increase consumer interaction with the product. The M&M’s Global Color Vote , conducted in 2002, was the first global promotion in the company’s history. The project built upon the brand’s positioning of “colorful chocolate fun” and asked consumers worldwide which new color they would most like to see in a bag of M&M’s – pink, purple or aqua.
In total, the M&M’s Global Color Vote program generated more than 10 million consumer votes, 1 billion media impressions and a 21% sales increase that led to Promo Magazine recognizing M&M’s  as one of the top 25 promoted brands of the year.
 Porter Novelli was charged with leading all GCV communication; generating worldwide votes, coordinating global aspects of the PR campaign and revealing the winning color. Furthermore, the Global Vote had to clearly differentiate itself from the 1995 vote when Blue joined the pack.
 Extensive studies were conducted in more than 15 countries, including Australia, Czechoslovakia, Malaysia, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States – to determine the most effective way of communicating brand messages.
The research studies explored issues such as brand image and perceptions, regional proclivities to varying public relations tactics (teaser campaigns, contests, voting, and others), the competitive environment, legal issues and key influencers by region.
The results confirmed that consumers worldwide valued the opportunity to directly impact a world-renown, iconic brand and arming them with this power would generate considerable consumer involvement.
 A multi-tiered public relations campaign was designed to raise awareness of the promotion and announce the winning color. PR was a significant driver of consumer awareness throughout the promotion, as two stages of the initiative were supported solely through public relations. The campaign was designed to allow for changes in world events and be adaptable globally and locally.
The target audience for the campaign included consumers ages 12 – 34. The objectives were to generate media and consumer excitement for the M&M’s brand and to establish the new color as part of the M&M’s mix.
The events of September 11, 2001 greatly impacted the original campaign strategy. The plan was to stage unannounced color rallies, where large groups of people would arrive in high visibility locations dressed in a single color – purple, pink or aqua. These events were to take place before the vote was announced to generate a buzz of curiosity among consumers.
Following September’s events, the campaign was reevaluated through an extensive audit of public and media sensitivities. Research showed that direct and unambiguous communication with the media and consumers would be best and suggested that the buzz campaign be eliminated.
Public relations led the overall marketing charge, serving as the sole communications effort during the announcement phase. A comprehensive media relations campaign  announced the M&M’s Global Color Vote on January 29, 2002. The Associated Press was offered advance access to the story, resulting in global pickup. B-roll, including the new colors rolling through the assembly line and executive quotes, was distributed via satellite.
An M&M’s online news bureau was created specifically for the Global Color Vote to provide the media with continuous access to the most recent press materials, photos and other information.
 A second announcement was made on March 6 – poll opening day – featuring a satellite media tour with live animation of M&M’s spokescandy Red. The media tour included live interviews with the character on more than 50 news programs throughout the U.S.
With news of the Global Color Vote blanketing the country, it wasn’t long before the campaign took on a life of its own. Radio stations across the country invited listeners to weigh in on this important vote, television stations ran M&M’s trivia questions as teasers during their newscasts and numerous Web sites conducted their own ‘unofficial polls.’
Other indications that the vote reached pop culture status included: anchors from top national news programs wearing pink, purple and aqua clothing; the gay and lesbian community rallying for pink; Abilene Christian University students and alumni promoting purple - the school color; and the famed Boca Raton Resort & Club inviting visitors to sign a petition supporting pink (the color of the hotel); the resort also filled their fountain with pink M&M’s .
The M&M’s Global Color Vote program culminated with a gala event in New York City on June 19, 2002 to reveal the winning color. Attended by more than 450 media, consumer promotion winners and celebrities from around the world, the event was hosted by comedic actor Fred Willard and featured performances by Ashanti and Wyclef Jean. The evening was capped off by Wyclef’s musical tribute to the winning color – purple. Working with partner agency Teamworx, the complete festivities were Web cast simultaneously throughout the world.
 One week following the launch of the vote, the campaign generated more than 1,500 media placements with nearly 700 million impressions.
The Global Color Vote announcement increased traffic to the web site by com 400 percent.
The announcement was also featured on the AOL welcome page, which generated over 600,000 votes in an unofficial one day poll and more than 18,000 postings on the AOL message board.
Results of a post-announcement study revealed 44 percent consumer awareness of the promotion.
More than 1,000 media placements appeared within 24 hours of the gala event that announced the winning color.
In addition, traffic to the mms.com website increased by 3,200 percent on the day of the gala.
Results of a follow-up study confirmed that the M&M’s Global Color Vote is indeed a part of the nation’s vernacular, with 71 percent of Americans aware that there is a new color M&M’s. The study also revealed that 44 percent of Americans identified, unaided, that the new color is purple.
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