Update 28 January: As predicted by Marielle Krouwel and others, it's an advertising stunt ahead of the Superbowl. Does that suddenly make it a good idea? That's still arguable. Personally I still find the arguments above relevant. But it wasn't surprising at all. Fuss was foreseen and exactly the intention.
M&M's CSR department and advertising agency sat down together and came up with a 'awesome' idea. What if we donated limited-edition chocolates with a female character and a dollar per pack to a female empowerment organisation? Playfully called, 'Supporting women flipping the status quo'. But then things went wrong. Conservative America couldn't stand his, opened the attack, and - guess what- M&Ms pulled the whole thing out of business. Sighs and groans raged across social media and trade sites.
You could argue bad publicity = good publicity of course. You could also speak of reputational damage. I honestly think both are nonsense. It's mostly something I would put under the heading of 'fuss'. Unnecessary fuss to be precise. If anyone ever comes up with a similar idea to do something for the world, ask yourself the following three questions. If you do, you will really reduce the chances of misery by eighty per cent or so.
Is this in line with my strategy?
Obviously, I don't have access to all of M&M's strategic documentation. But female empowerment doesn't necessarily strike me as something at the core of this brand's strategy right now. Giving pleasure, guilty pleasures for sure. A more sustainable production and logistics process might also be fine. But it is hard to answer yes to the question, 'does this fit with M&Ms' strategy'.
Do we have anything positive or important to add to the current discussion around this topic ?
More women in senior positions, is of course a theme in many organizations and certainly a theme in society. But what does M&Ms really have to add to this? They donate money and customize their product with a gag. They don't even add anything substantial. So again, we have to say no.
What is the expectation of my stakeholders towards my position on this issue?
I think you should always start with yourself, which is why I mention this issue last. Is there really anyone in the outside world who is waiting for a statement from M&Ms? I can't imagine so. And now the organization that thought they would make a lot of money is also disappointed, the party is all off.
In short: with a few simple questions, you can test whether it is a good idea to capitalize on a socially important issue. They almost seem like open doors. But apparently, open doors can also remain closed.
Writen by Jos Govaart
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Photo by Syed F Hashemi on Unsplash