Posted March 4, 2009 7:52 am by with 13 comments

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The question was asked here yesterday by Joe Hall and there were as many opinions asskittles there are colors in a bag of Skittles but as of this morning the jury is in. Skittles has taken down its site redesign reports MediaPost.

Apparently putting the brand and its message in a vehicle driven by consumers brings out the good the bad and the ugly.

The good was the fact that yesterday a lot of people were talking about Skittles. I have to admit that unless I am forced to I am not thinking about Skittles or writing a post about them. So to that degree this experiment certainly worked. Buzz was created and people were talking about the crazy colors of the Skittles rainbow.

The bad occurred when those in the industry started their prognostications about whether this idea was the way to go or not. While not all bad by any means it did open up the brand to some unknown territory. Most of the talk on Twitter was not about the merits of swallowing bag after bag of Skittles but rather a discussion amongst marketers about the merits of the campaign. Was this what the folks at Mars wanted? Not sure they knew since this was a new idea.

The ugly occurred when people got the idea that it would really funny to use profanity on the site. Isn’t that hysterical? Maybe some little kid will wander by the site because of the candy and the colors etc and see my tweet using a swear word. Boy if it wasn’t for genius like this in the world I don’t know how we would all survive.

As noted in the article Skittles lost control of the conversation. When you put the message in the hands of the consumer do you really have any semblance of control? This is all part of the Wild West that is user generated content, marketing, branding, buzz etc etc.

Brand Keys President noted

… the fiasco demonstrates the power of consumers. “If we had any doubt that the consumer is in control, this is the perfect case study that proves it,” he said. “It’s also additional proof that brands need a resonating authenticity among the community they want to serve.”

He also noted that the good news is that there is freedom of speech and the bad news is that there is freedom of speech. I have said this before and I will say it again. If we decide to give people control of any messaging in an Internet world that can be anonymous we should anticipate the worst. Sitting behind a screen with no threat of anyone finding them out gives people ‘Internet courage’ which is like getting drunk and saying something you never would because of the alcohol. How many times has a really drunk person truly been the life of the party in a good way? Same goes for this type of experiment. While the vast majority won’t feel the need to act the fool there will be some who think they are being funny and take down the opportunity for the rest.

At best Skittles has created a little buzz around the candy but is becoming a case study for social media issues worth it?

  • so now that they’ve canceled twitter search as their homepage, facebook is their new homepage!
    what do ya guys think ?>just a matter of time until they change that as well ? i mean its just a matter of time until people find an easy way of sabotaging the facebook fan page as well. (just like the cnn headline t shirts)

  • Oh come on, this must have been their plan all along. No one is that stupid – to think that twitter users will say only happy rainbow like things about skittles. So twitter got the buzz going… it’s still on their site (under chatter) it’s just not their homepage. Who knows, maybe it will circle back to it at some point. In any case, it created more buzz for their concept (even if it was to ultimately end up on the facebook page) and I don’t think they were really hurt by people saying random things #skittles. Like – how is that bad press for them? If anything, it got people thinking — hmm, skittles, i haven’t had skittles in a while, I want some. So they win. Good job skittles.

    her every cent counts’s last blog post..How My Stocks are Faring

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  • @her every cent. Great point. I have to admit I got a little Skittles jones happening from all of this talk. I do have one question though. What is up with Chocolate flavored Skittles? I don’t think that should be legal. I want colors.

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..All Local Businesses Have the Eyes of the World Upon Them

  • I think the two reports are a bit misleading – Skittles hasn’t taken down the site redesign. They’ve just moved Twitter to the ‘Chatter’ tab.

    The interesting thing isn’t the fact that the homepage redesign created buzz in marketing circles – the interesting thing will be whether, for example, they find productive ways to interact with their 5 million Facebook fans to result in engagement, involvement and sales.

    I’d doubt Twitter was a major longterm part of the plan anyway – it shows Twitter search and not a Skittles Twitter account – whereas the Facebook Skittles Page is a place where people can sign up for future information etc.

    Dan Thornton’s last blog post..Why Twitter won’t replace Google search- but will overtake it

  • jenny

    It’s an interesting idea, and it looks like it has gotten other smaller social networks thinking about ways to market a brand. For instance, I just saw this skittles page over at Diddit, where their members can check off all the skittles flavors they’ve tired, or want to try:

    I wonder what other social networks will come up with to market skittles and other companies.

  • Z Goodwin

    I think people are missing the point here. Skittles wasn’t planning on keeping the Twitter feed up forever. In fact, they made the switch to Facebook at the perfect time — while we were all still paying attention. If they had waited more than another day, this buzz would have been over. Instead, they get an entire second news cycle out of this. And that translates to new “friends” on their Facebook page, which is monetizeable in a very real way.

    Best post I’ve read on all of this so far:


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  • Realist

    “The ugly occurred when people got the idea that it would really funny to use profanity on the site”

    No. the ugly occurred when self-absorbed marketers decided that we need to protect children from curse words, but we should not protect them from – nay – we should encourage – marketing nutrition-less, tooth-rotting chemical drops to them. Instead of reading or wikipedia, we need to make sure our cheap marketing slogans get to them uninterrupted.
    What a joke.

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