When Skittlesturned its brand over to the great unwashed masses by replacing its home page with a live Twitter feed, the move got a lot of attention. it was the same sort of attention that Seth Godin once joked about when asked how to allocate a $10 million advertising budget for the launch of a new product: "Take $8 million out to the parking lot and set it on fire. You'll get more media attention than you can buy with that kind of money -- and you will have saved $2 million."
After the Twittersphere went hyperbolic about the Skittles home page and there were more Skittles tweets than could be counted, the unwashed masses started tweeting things that should have gotten their keyboards washed out with soap. Skittles was forced to pull the plug.
Curiously, this approach continues to work very well for Econsultancy. Several weeks ago, this mega-content-rich, UK-based, Web site, all about online commerce, put a live Twitter feed on its home page showing a handful of real-time tweets. The response was overwhelmingly positive and remains so.
So why did these two experiments get such different results?
Econsultancy's business is its Web site. Econsultancy customers are Internet-savvy and interested in protecting their image while projecting it in public. In contrast, Skittles customers are little boys and girls (of all ages) who are doing things online that their parents neither monitor nor understand. Skittles is a traditional, one-way advertiser that did a cannon ball into the unknown waters of the social media lake. Econsultancy merely swam out a little further into the community lake its strategists have been successfully swimming in for years.
GM Trucks let people slice and dice its video ads, with insulting results.
Skittles drank the Kool-Aid, gave up all other nutrition and OD'd. Econsultancy tasted the Kool-Aid and found it to be refreshing in proper quantities. Today, the Skittles home page is merely its Facebook fan page -- where they have some control. I have a feeling even that won't last long. Econsultancy has recently announced opening an office in New York with Rebecca Lieb at the helm. I have a feeling they are going to do very well.
-- Know thy customer.
-- Know thy brand.
-- Embrace both.
-- Share control.
-- Be part of the conversation -- don't abdicate.