Dining in the West End last night, I passed by the the new W Hotel (which smells of London sewers by the way), that shares its posterior with the unmissable new Leicester Square attraction: M&M’s World. I just had to go inside to experience for myself such a curious new wonderland – the theme of which is based on a ‘candy’ that isn’t even very popular in the UK. I’ve certainly never seen any M&M adverts. No, the M&M’s definitely belong to our bigger than big, brasher than brash American ‘cousins’.
Inside are no less than four levels of such an intense explosion of colour, light and plastic, its as if Barney has done a technicolour yawn. There is ‘merchandise’ everywhere, of every conceivable item of crud that you could possibly want, but with a definitively ‘British’ slant: teapots featured heavily, alongside stuffed toys, T-shirts and even M&M luggage straps (for your M&M luggage, surely…).
‘Where are the sweets?’ I hear you say. Where indeed! Well, we finally discovered them, tucked away in the bowels of M&M World – every colour of the rainbow and some mixed selections of pleasing colours, such as the ‘Royal Mix’ in purples, greys and lilac. We decided to get some and filled up 3 bags.
Making our way to the till, we were greeted by four grinning shop assistants – Red, Blue, Yellow and Blue. “Oh whoever shall we choose!” We went with Yellow, aka Vicky.
“And what flavour are you Vicky?” we quipped.
“I’m fine, thank-you” Vicky drawled, in her M&M programmed way, clearly not hearing the joke over the booming cheesy (British) pop music.
We shuffled out pretty sharpish, passing under the hull of a routemaster bus. It was a pretty mind-blowing experience, and one that left us £20 lighter (!!) but weighted down with M&M’s the density of a newborn baby: the dispenser system for the sweets themselves seemed to have no measuring gauge and I can tell you, I wouldn’t want to try my luck with saying I ‘didn’t want’ all those sweets.. no fear! Its no real hardship, though. Those little chocolate-covered peanuts are true kernels of delight..!
So why do we have an M&M World is my real question. It certainly isn’t an attraction for natives. Having our Union flag, love of tea and red buses rammed down our throats is nauseating at the best of times. No, nestled in the bosom of London, M&M World is clearly a tourist attraction – for those visiting London – erected just in time for the biggest and most hyped event in recent history: London 2012.
I give it 18 months.
After posting my initial reactions of M&M’s World (‘bowled over’), I have had a few interesting discussions with colleagues and friends about the concept of a brand ‘world’. Although I personally find the concept a little dated and targeted at a narrow market, there is definitely room for something new. I mean, why M&M’s World? Why not Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in central London? I would definitely go to that. Lickable Wallpaper, Chocolate River? Yes please…! Any brand guardian considering entering into this area of marketing should consider M&M’s World as a good example of what not to do and should challenge the concept.