After 60 years of manufacturing and distributing the chocolate that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand”, M&M/Mars made the decision to target the ever-growing U.S. Hispanic market for the first time.  To do this, the company created a uniquely Hispanic M&Ms candy and retained rbb Public Relations to launch a branding campaign for the all-new product. 
The flavor?  M&Ms Dulce de Leche-Caramel Chocolate Candies - a swirl of rich chocolate and creamy dulce de leche caramel (a staple Hispanic dessert) perfectly blended in a traditional M&Ms   Candy Shell.  In concert with “M&M,” rbb decided to target the five cities that boast the highest concentrations of Hispanics in the U.S. based on percentage of total population – Los Angeles, McAllen/Brownsville, Miami, San Antonio and San Diego. 
The goal of the campaign was to build excitement for the launch of this new product and position the new dulce for a national rollout in 2003.  The result?  M&M” and rbb created a national dulce phenomenon, which “M&M” principals declared as the most successful company rollout to date.
The Challenge:
The campaign did not come without trials.
1.  rbb was essentially charged with launching a new product to the Latino community without product samples and with no video footage.  2.  “M&M”   had no track record with the Hispanic Community as this was their first effort.  3. The teasing aspect was so exciting that word began to leak and key national media was calling for information long before the roll out date.  4.  The initial launch relied solely on the PR effort, not advertising.     
rbb research showed that very few mainstream Anglo companies had successfully launched a new product into the Hispanic market.  Therefore, it was essential that the account team had up-to-date information on this group.  rbb found that…
  • With a purchasing power of $325 billion and nearly 35 million people strong, the U.S.-Hispanic community is the fourth largest Spanish-speaking market in the world, behind Mexico, Spain and Argentina. 
  • The U.S.-Hispanic population is growing at a rate of more than two percent each year.
  • By 2010, Hispanics are projected to become the second largest consumer group in the country, accounting for nearly 15 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • 65% of Hispanics in the U.S. prefer to use “Hispanic” or “Hispanic American” when identifying themselves.  West Coast Hispanic Americans prefer “Latino”.
  • U.S. Hispanic households are younger and larger with a median age of 27.6 and an average household size of 3.4 members.  58% of Hispanic families have children in the home.
With this information, rbb discovered that the approach to the “M&M”   story lay not only in the new flavor, but also in the importance of the Hispanic purchasing sector.  We determined that the angle moving forward was not just the launch of a new product, but an emphasis on the growth of this group and its power in influencing new products and market trends.  In other words, the research conducted laid the groundwork for rbb’s trend pitch.
rbb also knew that that other companies including a popular fast food giant were looking to capitalize upon the trendy flavor as well.  We recognized that it was critical for us to move quickly in order to be the first to lead the trend and generate general market significance.
rbb planned to gain maximum exposure in the local markets, maximize national exposure, and try to focus the national press on our goal of positioning “M&M”   as a trendsetter and not be limited to news briefs.  According to the Hispanic Opinion Tracker Study, 85% of Hispanics speak English and a majority consumes English media on a regular basis.  Therefore, we arranged two simultaneous exclusives with the large English language dailies – one west coast (Los Angeles Times) and one east coast (The Miami Herald). 
There were four objectives for the M&M/Mars Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Candies Launch:
  • Build excitement among Hispanics for launch of new product
  • Attract interest from Hispanic and Anglo media
  • Stimulate trial
  • Position M&M/Mars as a trend leader

rbb utilized a three-step approach:

  • Target 5 Hispanic launch markets, overlay with national efforts
  • Build on love of all things Latin
  • Accelerated select media contact to generate buzz
Timing was key in taking the lead.  Information on the launch had leaked and key national outlets were looking to break the story.  It was important to rbb and M&M/Mars to control the message and deliver the story to the right media outlets, i.e. the major dailies in our target markets.  At the same time, it was also important to launch prior to the large fast food company’s Hispanic menu announcement in order to dominate trend stories. Based on rbb’s recommendation, the candy giant decided to move up the launch date to ensure proper press coverage aimed at the right audience.  With this advantage, rbb used one-on-one media relations to develop the vision of the launch/trend story for media.  As you will see from the press clippings, “M&M” became the lead.  Most importantly, what ensued was a media frenzy - where week one results equaled what would be expected in a yearlong campaign!
Sales – Actual sales are held very closely by M&M/Mars and are proprietary, but the company says orders for dulce have continued to pile in.   rbb was also told that after one week sales, all stores had to be restocked with more inventory and a number of new retailers have also begun carrying this product.
PR Results – In addition to helping M&M/Mars stimulate trials, rbb delivered on its goals to create a buzz for the product and include the company in Hispanic marketing and trend features.  Here’s a breakdown of the press generated during the campaign:
The message of M&Ms new Dulce de Leche Caramel Chocolate Candies reached
211,249,400 people across the U.S.
Topline media results include 87,637,264 print impressions, 49,124,854 internet pageviews, 5,922,800 radio listeners and 68,564,485 television viewers. 
Estimated advertising equivalent of $1,645,053 for an ROI (return on investment) of more than 12:1.
Dulce de Leche M&M Caramel Chocolate Candies dominated print coverage across the country with 214 features stories and news briefs in daily newspapers
News of the launch reached all 50 states with more than 160 national and local broadcasts
Local news hits in New York, Miami, LA, San Antonio, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix, Tampa, Cleveland, Houston, Detroit, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Columbus, Memphis, Birmingham, Santa Fe, Austin, Knoxville, Tucson, Albany, Raleigh, Rochester, Savannah, Nashville
National and local radio spots, including Bloomberg and CBS Syndicate
Coverage on more than 50 reputable Internet news sites, including Lycos, Excite and Terra
Stories on major wire services, including Reuters, Dow Jones, AP Newswires and Knight Ridder Wire