Boris Johnson and a boy band.I visited the new M & M world shop in Leicecer Square in London. It was one of the most sureal experiences of my life.
In her early 1990's classic 'No Logo' Naomi Klien talked of brands as a sort of Frankenstin monster that were created to sell a product but who had lately broken free to devour their creators. She argued that companies such as Nike and Starbucks were no longer producers of running shoes or coffie. They were primeraly concerned with the promotion of brands and the product had become an afterthought to be outsourced to the cheapest producer.
Nothing in this fevered book came close to describing M & M world.
So what is it? M & M world is a ten million pound theme park devoted to this rather bland peanut snack that has never been a great seller in the UK. There is something disproportionate and absurd about this from the very start. How can so much marketing be piled upon something so small and cheap?
Entering M & M world is like joining a cult. The staff line up each side of the door and dance in their wacky costumes- grinning and applauding everyone who enters. The Unification Church call this 'love bombing' and it is very powerful.
A second aspect of cult indoctrination is to regress the target to a childlike and trusting state. This is often done through games and songs. M & M do it by placing their target in a gigantic adult creche. This seems to delight Japanese women in particular who run about squealing with delight.
Each floor (there are four) is designed to install an emotional trigger and attach it to the sweet. The first trigger is Britain. The second trigger is fairytale Princesses (it is possible to act out Disney type Princess scenes). The third trigger is individualisation. The target is invited to take tests to find their ideal M & M and the final trigger is Hollywood and the American teenager.
This works even if you know it is nonsense. I came out feeling euphoric and strangely identified with the sweet even though I do not even particularly like them.
Bizarre- but is it sinister or is it all harmless fun?