'My Branding', due to become available next month, is the next step in the company's personalization campaign, which has seen sales double since its introduction last year.
Masterfoods USA expects similar success from its latest initiative, which marks a major step in the increasingly popular trend of brand customization. The idea behind this type of marketing is consistent with other brand development techniques: strengthening consumer loyalty through brand association.
"This has been a paradigm change for our business. It's been a significant breakthrough in pushing our brand as it allows consumers to make greater connections. People love to interact and experience a brand in different ways, and they have embraced this opportunity," said Jim Cass, vice president and general manager of 'My M&M'S'.
Indeed, customized branding is being increasingly offered on a number of food and beverage products. Earlier this month Heinz announced it will allow consumers to personalize the text on its ketchup labels. And General Mills prints consumer photographs on its Wheaties cereal boxes, which are normally associated with famous athletes.
Other initiatives include personalized Jones Soda bottles and customized Hershey chocolate bars.
Masterfoods USA, a division of Mars Inc, considers 1996 to be the start of its brand personalization program, when the firm made its M&M chocolates available in 21 colors. While the standard M&M product remained a five-color mix, consumers were able to order the chocolates in any one of a variety of shades through the internet or in specialty stores.
And in 2005, the firm launched its 'My M&M'S' initiative, which allowed consumers to choose a message to be printed on the chocolates for a charge of around $45. The majority of sales are online, with a small proportion conducted in specialty candy stores.
The company now receives approximately 800 to 1,000 orders a day, and expects the business to expand further.
"Over the next few years we hope to reach out to a million consumers every year, and we expect the business to generate around $1 million in sales," said Cass.
"M&M'S is a mega brand. When you are able to bring a significant marketing idea to consumers, it becomes very big," he told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
However, until now, the corporate market has not had a large presence in the company's marketing plan. But its new 'My Branding' program will transfer the standard concept of placing corporate logos and slogans on items such as pens and gifts onto a consumable good.
Under the new program, the company with charge a $100 set up fee, together with up to $30 per pound of branded chocolates. Language and logos deemed 'inappropriate' by the company, as well as direct competitors, will not be allowed to feature on the popular chocolate brand.
"Personalization and customization is a need in the market, and it will continue to grow. Any time a brand can make a personal connection with consumers it will enhance the brand. Consumers want things made for them. If they get this, a brand will have their loyalty," said Cass.
Over the next few years Masterfoods USA expects My M&M'S to become a "significant portion" of the total brand. The program is currently only available in the US, but is due to be implemented in other countries as early as next year.