Why are right wingers obsessed with animated brand mascots? https://t.co/yfMyMBIFZy
— Caro-ish 🇺🇲🇨🇷 (@carogonza2) January 27, 2023
On January 25 2023, CNN Business published “How M&M’s is making the most of its spokescandies controversy,” recapping that seemingly neverending social media topic:
Over the past year [2022, 2023], M&M’s has been the subject of Fox News tirades and criticism from a small segment of fans — first for changing the Green M&M’s footwear and more recently featuring female M&M characters on its packaging for International Women’s Day.
So [in January 2023] it announced a change: Following the flood of attention its characters are going on an “indefinite pause,” handing off spokesperson responsibilities to actress and comedian Maya Rudolph.
Given the outsize attention, some think M&M’s announcement is a PR stunt to hype its upcoming Super Bowl  commercial. But experts note not all publicity is good. And M&M’s may just be trying to regain control of a narrative that has spun out of control.
On January 23 2023, M&Ms (@mmschocolate) tweeted the following statement:
A message from M&M'S. pic.twitter.com/EMucEBTd9o
— Ma&Ya’s (@mmschocolate) January 23, 2023
Yellow text against a chocolate-colored background read:
America, let’s talk. In the last year, we’ve made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet. But now we get it – even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing. Which was the last thing M&M’s wanted since we’re all about bringing people together.
Therefore, we have decided to take an indefinite pause from the spokescandies. In their place, we are proud to introduce a spokesperson America can agree on: the beloved Maya Rudolph. We are confident Ms. Rudolph will champion the power of fun to create a world where everyone feels they belong.
On January 24 2023, the Twitter account for A&W Restaurants (@awrestaurants) tweeted a very similar statement:
A message from A&W. pic.twitter.com/WGdF12TSyg
— A&W Restaurants (@awrestaurants) January 24, 2023
White text against a root beer colored background echoed the visual and tonal elements of the M&Ms-related statement:
America, let’s talk. Since 1963, Rooty the Great Root Bear has been our beloved spokesbear. We knew people would notice because he’s literally a 6-foot tall bear wearing an orange sweater. But now we get it — even a mascot’s lack of pants can be polarizing.
Therefore, we have decided that Rooty will wear jeans going forward. Not to worry though: he will remain our original spokesbear. After all, he is un-bear-ably cute and im-paw-ssible to replace. We are confident Rooty will continue to champion good food & good times for many years to come … now in denim.
Google Trends data for the seven-day period ending January 27 2023 evidenced sustained interest in A&W’s Twitter statement. Terms with “Breakout” levels of search popularity included “A&W root beer,” “A&W mascot pants,” “A&W bear mascot,” “A&W root beer mascot pants,” “A&W rootbeer,” “M&M controversy,” Maya Rudolph,” “A&W restaurant,” and “Rooty the great root bear.”
On January 25 2023, Twitter user Spencer Barrett (whose Twitter bio mentioned social media management for A&W) shared the clip, adding:
tfw your joke brand tweet ends up on fox news 😅 pic.twitter.com/gaKYzFT3gj
— Spencer Barrett (@spencerbarrett) January 25, 2023
Pop culture site The AV Club addressed the Fox Business segment in a January 26 2023 item, quoting Fox Business personalities lamentations about the “woke police”:
Despite the fact that the sodamonger’s tweet is clearly a parody, evident from the announcement’s layout down to the wording of the statement itself, that hasn’t stopped Fox News from bemoaning this latest instance of cancel culture run amok … “First it was M&M’s,” a host says before continuing, sadly, “Now it’s root beer.”
The apparent mascot design change is summarized further and the camera zooms out to mutters of “That’s ridiculous,” a shouted “Quit your cryin’!” and, finally, an explanation: “It’s the woke police … cancel culture has gone ridiculous.”
Incidentally, a January 25 2023 Independent.co.uk article about the inauthentically organized M&M “spokescandies” “controversy” (“Tucker Carlson celebrates forcing M&Ms to drop mascots”) indicated that Fox News personality Tucker Carlson took credit (“with some pride”) for influencing the decision to discontinue the campaign:
Tucker Carlson took a victory lap on his Fox News show after his complaints that the cartoon candy mascots for M&M’s weren’t attractive enough and were too “woke” forced the candy company to discontinue the use of its characters.
During a [January 23 2023] broadcast, Mr Carlson said he was being “blamed” for the death of the decades-old mascots.
“The M&M’s pro-fat M&M ad campaign seems to have ended, we’re being blamed for it,” the entertainer said, smiling. “We say that with some pride.”
This ends a long battle for Mr Carlson, who spent the last year  complaining that the mascots went “woke” after the company decided to change the designs of the characters.
A CBS News item appeared at first to follow the same reasoning as Fox Business in “Why A&W put pants on its cartoon bear after M&M’s spokescandies gaffe,” before adding:
In fact, Rooty is not undergoing a wardrobe change. The tweet was all in fun, not to mention a chance for a little tongue-in-cheek marketing, A&W told CBS MoneyWatch. “Is now a good time to mention that this is a joke,” the company tweeted on [January 25 2023].
To be sure, many Twitter users who commented on Rooty’s new look recognized it as a playful jab, with one social media user quipping that the mascot’s jeans are a “paw-larizing” subject. But some people seemed genuinely put off. “Does Wokeness have no boundaries,” another tweeted.
“Our social media post yesterday was purely in jest, intended to be playful banter with the M&M’s team,” A&W spokesperson Liz Bazner said. “We have no plans to actually change our mascot’s current outfit and had no idea that we would strike a nerve with such a large audience.”
Less than 24 hours after tweeting the humorous statement, A&W threaded a tweet confirming its satirical intent:
Is now a good time to mention this is a joke? 😅
— A&W Restaurants (@awrestaurants) January 25, 2023
In a January 25 2023 Fox Business segment, right-wing television personalities bemoaned the “woke police,” missing or ignoring the clearly satirical statement issued by A&W, which in turn was modeled on a viral statement from M&Ms. Fox Business presented the parody tweet as authentic. That particular misstep existed in the broader context of Fox News right-wing presenter Tucker Carlson’s long-term fixation on the attractiveness of M&Ms “spokescandies,” and followed a segment during which Carlson took credit for the “spokescandies” statement, “with pride.”