Skittles – Didn’t Taste The Rainbow On Twitter

    March 4, 2009

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?