A&W addresses mascot’s ‘polarizing’ lack of pants in riff on M&M’s uproar

    • A&W Restaurants in a tweet said it would outfit mascot Rooty the Great Root Bear in a pair of jeans moving forward due to the “polarizing” nature of his lack of pants. 
    • The statement satirizes an announcement from M&M’s earlier this week in which the confectionery marketer said it would put use of its spokescandies on “indefinite pause” following backlash to a recent rebrand. 
    • While A&W is strongly signaling Rooty’s new look is a joke, some outlets are covering the development in a straightforward manner. In any case, the restaurant marketer is successfully generating online engagement by bouncing off another company’s controversy.    

    A&W is poking fun at the media uproar over M&M’s by slapping a pair of jeans on Rooty, a cartoon bear mascot used in its marketing since 1963. Both brands’ social media statements are formatted similarly and begin with the same solemn address — “America, let’s talk” — before digging into the ostensible “polarizing” discussion surrounding their characters. 

    In M&M’s case, the divisiveness is real. A rebrand of its spokescandies introduced last year has tried to modernize the anthropomorphic chocolates to recognize diversity and inclusion and issues like mental health. Familiar faces were redesigned to be more grounded, while a new Purple variant was added to the lineup in September. Backlash has been swift in certain corners, with prominent right-wing figures decrying the strategy as “woke.” 

    Earlier this week, M&M’s said the spokescandies would be taking a step back from the spotlight, with actress Maya Rudolph becoming the face of the brand in the interim. The timing of the announcement suggests this could all be a stunt for the Super Bowl, where M&M’s is confirmed to be running a commercial. 

    Regardless, M&M’s has again set off a deluge of discourse. A&W demonstrates how brands can latch onto otherwise thorny social media discussions to boost their own profile with little effort, though in this instance, the company has risked people taking the joke seriously. In response to a Twitter user asking if the move to put pants on Rooty was real, A&W’s official account responded with a gif blaring, “NO,” in bright red letters. 

    “Goodbye …. Go with a company with guts that doesn’t cave in to foolishness,” another user posted, with an attached image of rival Mug Root Beer. 

    This kind of attempt at satire also points to the enduring appeal of Twitter for some brands. While many of the platform’s top advertisers have jumped ship since Elon Musk took over in November, others have remained to stay tapped into culture and post memes with viral potential.


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