Sweet Sensation

News
Mars Inc. allows customers to create their own candy messages on MyMMs.com.

Although personalization is no stranger to e-commerce, few retailers have embraced the concept like the colorful, made-to-order My M&M site, the customized division of McLean, Va.-based candy giant Mars Inc.

At MyMMs.com , visitors can create their own M&Ms in three easy steps. First, they are given two blank M&M pieces to design. After sorting through 22 different colors, they are asked to select two. Shoppers then type a few short words onto the pieces—messages can be a simple birthday and holiday wish or even include Major League Baseball and corporate business logos.

Finally, visitors select how they want their M&Ms packaged. Choices vary from a 7-oz. gift bag priced at $11.99 (this requires a three-bag purchase minimum) to a mini glass box that comes in sets of 12 for $74.99.

This setup is ideal for weddings and major events that require personalization in bulk, but the minimum requirement could easily deter a good number of regular shoppers. While it would be sweet to give your significant other a bag of personalized M&Ms for a special occasion, the site’s three-bag minimum purchase might be overkill.

Still, other retailers can learn a lot from MyMMs.com when it comes to leveraging a Web site that provides consumers with a fun and engaging way to be a part of the selection and ordering process. In theory, shoppers could pick up the phone to place a personalized order, but MyMMs.com gives them the unique opportunity to see and review their designs in real-time, instead of waiting for a package to arrive at their doorstep.

Retailers should also take notice of the comprehensive way in which Mars is promoting its online channel. Although the site launched in 2006, Mars is pushing it now more than ever with an extensive display of TV and online banner ads. According to Nielson Monitor-Plus, Mars spent $13 million on U.S. media for MyMMs.com last year, up from $4 million in 2006.

In April, Mars named Dallas-based imc2 as its lead agency for strategic planning, creative and media work for its customized candy unit Mars Direct, as well as for My M&M’s and My Dove brands. MyDoveChocolate.com is another customized business from Mars that allows consumers to order Dove candies with personalized messages printed on the foil wrapper.

It’s evident that Mars is embracing rich media to lure shoppers to its site, but it doesn’t stop there—the company looks for ways to keep them there, as well. For example, on its homepage, www.m-ms.com , visitors can “Become an M&M” by creating their own character, similar to the ones featured in TV commercials, by choosing from an array of body types, facial features, clothing and accessories.

The site also has a variety of games, including a promotion for the new Indiana Jones and the “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” film where—as an M&M character of your choice—visitors can navigate through an underworld maze in search of the company’s latest product, Mint Crisp M&Ms. The graphics are dynamic, and so is the message.

There is no mystery to the lesson to be learned at MyMMs.com : Integrating creative and interactive personalization into a Web site makes it more fun and enticing while giving it a unique identity. It also answers the consumer’s growing demand for personalization.