Episode 43


What does it mean to be a brand?

One of the most critical barriers to success is understanding what a brand is and what a brand is NOT. I get this question all the time. Let me tell you what a brand is NOT: A brand is NOT a name, logo, tag-line, package design or the product itself. I call these elements: Window-dressing your brand. A brand is simply an EMOTIONAL IDENTITY that differentiates products, services and people.

As a former marketing executive at global multi-billion dollar consumer products companies like Nabisco, Kraft Foods, Cadbury and Godiva, I successfully crafted emotional identities for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Over the course of 25 years, a frequent challenge I faced was communicating the role a brand played in consumer’s lives…in other words its Core Value. To solve this problem, I developed a process to label that brand’s Core Value using just ‘One Word’. This helps consumers understand what they are actually buying.

During this series, I will select a brand I worked on or studied and share it’s ‘One Word’ Core Value, as well as share valuable topics in the branding arena that will help you Stand-Out Conquer Obstacles and Reach Excellence…in other words, SCORE.

So let’s turn to today’s brand clip… M&M’S

Show Notes (click to expand)

After 7-years at Godiva, the #1 complaint from consumers hands-down was melted chocolate…especially after shelling out a sizable amount of dollars for chocolate they’d been craving for days. They would say time and time again…the chocolate should melt in your mouth, not in your hands. 

HHHMMM: Doesn’t that tagline sound really familiar?

Yes it does, because it belongs to M&M’s, today’s brand clip episode.

M&M’s were dreamed up in the most unexpected spot: the battlefield. As the story goes, Forrest Mars saw soldiers in the Spanish Civil War eating pieces of chocolate covered in a sugar coating. When he realized that the coating was preventing the chocolate from melting, he secured his own patent to manufacture chocolate that way. The year was 1941.

Forest Mars called these pellet-sized candy-coated chocolates M&M’s and then sold them exclusively to the United States military during World War II.

When it came time to appeal to a wider audience – or as we like to say in the consumer products world, the masses…the M&M’s tagline, “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” was introduced in 1949, out of the need it was solving for the military. 

I always say that winning brands solve problems.

Here’s a FUN fact worth noting about this iconic tagline: In 2014, researchers at Texas Tech University explained in a slogan study they published in the Journal of Business Research, that “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands” is the most well-liked slogan in the nation.

AND off the record, Nike’s “Just do it” is the most remembered (Check out Episode #26 to learn Nike’s ‘One Word’.) 

What makes M&Ms really endearing are their FUN commercials, dating back to the 1970s, when Mars launched a spot that used a spin on Sammy Davis Jr.’s hit single, “The Candyman Song.”

AND the 1990s brought M&M’s to life as cute, lovable characters in a super-charming way.

There are six different characters that represent the brand—but yellow and red M&M’s seem to get all of the air time, and the glory. Interestingly enough, most people don’t know that both characters have been voiced by some famous actors:

The guys who’ve voiced yellow were John Goodman and J.K. Simmons…

…and the guys who’ve voiced red were Billy West and Jon Lovitz.

Ms. Brown M&M made her debut in the 2012 Super Bowl commercial “Sexy and I Know It” and was voiced by former Miss America Vanessa Williams. Another FUN fact: Ms. Brown was inspired in part by Wilhelmina Slater, the ruthless publishing executive Vanessa Williams played on “Ugly Betty.”

Personally, the most FUN when it comes to M&M’s are the colors. We all have our favorite color of M&M’s. You know what I’m saying, the one that you reach for first when there’s a big bowl of candy staring at you. Personally, I love to separate and prioritize my M&M-eating experience. Yellow is always last, in case you were wondering.

Now, I saved the best  FUN fact for last: Each color has its own subconscious meaning. I learned this while doing my own research on-line! 

So, “what does your favorite M&M color say about you?” 

Here goes:

If Green is your #1 M&M, then you’re a sexual deviant.

Gravitating towards Red M&M’s implies that you’re confident, bold, and passionate. 

Loving Blue M&M’s makes you a trendsetter…meaning you live for excitement and the unknown possibilities life has to offer.

If you’re wild, carefree and march to the beat of your own drum, then chances are your favorite color of M&M’s is Orange.

People who prefer Yellow M&M’s tend to go against the grain…and FYI, this has always been my favorite M&M’s color. I guess you can say that’s the CATALYST in me.

If you’re a traditionalist, then chances are that Brown M&M’s are your #1 color. You like things to be exactly as they should. Some call that “obsessive-compulsiveness”…but that’s okay…you do you!

I’ll end with the FUNNEST M&M’s experience of all. Now you can get “a little personal” with your face on the shells of M&M’s. That’s right. Personalized M&M’s are sure to make you the life of the party.

So there you have it… 

M&M’s has done a brilliant job being a part of their consumer’s FUN, through the multiple colors, comedic characters and personalization that help bring this iconic brand to life. 

So, the next time you want to brighten up your day, remember this:

FUN is how M&M’s SCORES!

I’m Rich Keller, The CATALYST, and see you next time on The CATALYST Effect.

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