Commentary

Hey! Who Stole My Twittles? I Mean, Skittles?

I come before you today to discuss a matter of grave concern. All week long, with the rest of the world so calm as to make me somnolescent (!), I've been spending my days and nights wondering if Skittles' social media campaign was:

a)      A rotten idea because people said naughty things on Twitter about #skittles like: "Yeah, #starburst would totally beat the shit out of #skittles in a back alley fight." (That was a mild tweet considering what some people said, but this is a family social media column, dammit!)

b)      A great idea because people are now talking about Skittles, and the brand now has more than a half million fans on Facebook.

c)      A rip-off of Modernista, which did a similar thing to its home page way back in ‘08.

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d)      A sure sign of the apocalypse.

I'm going to have to go with "d" (with a smattering of "b"). Feel free to make your own selection (and I know you will) in the comments below. Seriously, folks, the Dow is flirting with the dreaded 6000, job losses are accelerating, but the most buzz I've heard all week -- and this includes the massive media blitz surrounding U2's new album -- is about little rainbow-colored candies? Are you kidding me? Obviously, what social media watchers everywhere need to get isn't a life, but a refuge from the current state of affairs.

They appear to have found it in Skittles.

For those who've missed it -- though it seems virtually impossible that anyone reading this column did -- what Skittles did earlier this week was make its home page the Twitter feed for all mentions of Skittles, while also incorporating, through a pop-up window, links to other social media "chatter" about the brand. Today, the default social media site at Skittles.com is the far more innocuous Facebook fan page for the brand, where people can read comments like "Skittles are my favorite!" ... Oh, the banality! (BTW, Skittles didn't "pull" the Twitter page. The plan was to rotate different social media pages, and the Twitter page may come back. Skittles.com still links to it.)

Now, it's time to drown in social media clichés, like the following: The mere fact I'm writing about this means the campaign achieved some success. Awareness of Skittles on the Web probably hasn't been this high, ever. The underpinning for the strategy for this campaign is in itself a social media cliché: The consumers own the brand.

But I'd also like to offer that, in obsessing about this campaign, social media watchers are becoming their own cliché. What stood out to me in looking at the tweets about Skittles this morning wasn't the naughty stuff, which seems to have run its course, but the whole meta phenomenon where people aren't talking about Skittles per se, but what the Skittles campaign means for social media. Then there's all the hand-wringing about the fact that some people said naughty things about Skittles and how that somehow mars the campaign (no pun intended, though Skittles is made by Mars). C'mon. Do you really think the agency and client were so naïve as to not know that would be part of it?

It's time to move on to something truly important. Kudos to Skittles and Agency.com for embracing the idea that it's not the brand home page that defines the brand. That's a good thing. But we knew that already.

10 comments about "Hey! Who Stole My Twittles? I Mean, Skittles?".
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  1. Augustine Fou from Marketing Science Consulting Group, Inc., March 4, 2009 at 3:11 p.m.

    e) none of the above. it was nothing more than a quick and simple experiment, that actually worked! go figure. And they got a halo of benefit from all the social media pundits praising or bashing it and tell them what they thought worked or not. :-)

  2. Steve Plunkett from Cool Websites Organization, March 4, 2009 at 3:18 p.m.

    Ms. Taylor,

    The closest thing I can equate this to is the increases in search for Rihanna and Chris Brown being a good thing.

    Ask yourself, who are the people who eat the most skittles? 18 and up?

    I think people are being praised for poor execution, this could have been done in a much much better way.

    and I am pretty sure the FB fan increase is mostly a viral thing on facebook, i didn't fan the skittles page on the website, i saw it as the network of social peeps started becoming Fans as i am sure most did, so the dumb luck of the Facebook after effects are the good part of this you are right.. then again so is the example of what NOT to do in social media or to Rihanna if you are Chris Brown.

  3. Eileen Obrien from Compass Healthcare Communications, March 4, 2009 at 3:22 p.m.

    The only important question is will this cause people to buy more Skittles? I look forward to learning the answer.

  4. Joe Strupek from State Farm, March 4, 2009 at 3:35 p.m.

    What would Skittles needed to have done five years ago to get this kind of earned media?

  5. Greg Lee from IMAGINE NATION, March 4, 2009 at 3:51 p.m.

    With everything that is going on in our world- you would think that Skittles and their agency would be more sensitive to what PEOPLE REALLY CARE ABOUT...(sorry, it's NOT Skittles)....I realize they have a product to market, but if current examples in the world don't make it obvious that you need to exert a LOT of sensitivity in your marketing messages (offer SOLUTIONS, not HYPE), I'm not sure what you need to know to wake up and be MORE IN TOUCH with your audience. They got trashed on Twitter because Twitters are about REAL, organic, testimonials and truth in real time. Spending the time, and $$$ with an agency that didn't understand nor grasp that from the get go, shows that someone at the top of this, should have done more homework, or solicited better advice about using Twitter. Every agency in the world wants to jump on the bandwagon and utilize Social Media. If you don't understand how to properly "engage" consumers using Web 2.0 technology, you need to be careful, for it'll blow up it you face.

    Ask yourself now...at the end of the day...for the amount of $ you spent...what did you accomplish? Was it worth the $ just to find out that people would talk about you on Twitter (good or bad)? I could've told you that for a lot less;-)..best-g

    Let's follow and "connect":
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    Twitter: http://twitter.com/imaginenation
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  6. Gerard Mclean from Rivershark, Inc., March 4, 2009 at 4:27 p.m.

    Skittles figured out how to have a maintenance-free web site. They probably did an ROI on their web site, found that the traffic really didn't justify an entire staff of content folks so just decided to plop their widget in the corner and grab free content from someone else's wallet. Twitter, Flikr. People are going to say what they want anyway about the brand, so just let them. After a while, the folks who post up stuff just to see themselves on the front page of Skittles.com will get tired of "waving to mom" and move on.

    Kinda clever way to push your web site expense off on other people.

  7. Melissa Humbert from Burns Marketing, March 4, 2009 at 4:29 p.m.

    I've got to disagree with you Greg. We hear bad news 24/7 these days, it's kind of nice to have something that is entertaining, engaging and a little disruptive to focus on for a few minutes. People may not care about Skittles, but they got a break from the news for a few moments and it was sponsored by Skittles. A little escapism can go a long way.

    Interesting, they used both the "entertain me" focus of FB and "give it to me straight" Twitter, hitting both sides of how we engage with social media. I like it.

  8. Ray Welling from Zazoo, March 4, 2009 at 4:41 p.m.

    I absolutely agree with you, Eileen - let's look at this in three months' or six months' time and see what difference it made in sales. Yes, it has been a ground-breaking brand-building exercise, but the way that interest has spiked, the short-term effect is likely to be more interesting than the long-term effect.

  9. Tom Des jardins from Affine Systems, March 4, 2009 at 5:14 p.m.

    So just for fun, I tweeted about my love of skittles, (which is true) posted comments at a few media centric blogs, and in each included a link to my hobby site, www.raisinganchor.com (its'a great site about cruising in boats, if you link to me and email me, I promise to send you a bag of skittles! Srsly.).

    So interestingly, I basically doubled my traffic, not that it was huge to begin with (Ok, it will get way better when I put in the new front page but I'm doing real work!). And that's from just riding the coat tails. I bet it was very successful for them. Now can other brands do that? Maybe not. For one think, NECO Wafers just aren't as addictive, they are more like nostalgia candy...... but maybe lemon drops.......

  10. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc., March 5, 2009 at 1:25 a.m.

    Forget 15 minutes. Skittles 140 characters are up and over.

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