Skittles: Innocent Candy or Evil Spammer?

March 3, 2009 by  
Filed under All, PR, social media

skittlesAnother week, another blow up in the Twitterverse. And this time it’s all down to a small, sugary treat.

If you haven’t yet visited, do so now. They have replaced a traditional website with a small navigation box which overlays a search for #skittles on Twitter, the Facebook Fan page, Flickr-hosted photos and a Youtube channel. The Social Web’s dream, right? Well, maybe.

I first came across it on Saturday evening and thought it was pretty cool, and more than a little daring too. Giving over complete control to the world? Huge potential for that to backfire. Still, a fun idea, and a lot more interesting than most product websites.

Well, as with so much on the internet, it didn’t take long for the backlash to begin.

  • Many pointed out that the concept was kinda-sorta ‘borrowed’ (wholesale) from Modernista, an advertising agency in Boston who had done the same thing last March.
  • Others complained about having to be an adult to see the site, as Tim Allick puts it, “Can’t believe that #skittles website bans KIDS! Doesn’t send them to a safe page, just tells ‘em to go away. How is this smart marketing?”. (He does have a point. It’s a kids candy after all. )
  • The Wall St Journal chimed in with a round-up of comments, most of them negative.
  • Joanne Jacobs wrote¬† a blog condemning the whole exercise as a failure – just one day after the site launch – Why the Skittles social media campaign failed’: ” Skittles has failed in its social media campaign because all it has done is hold a mirror up to conversations, without providing any content of its own, any context for remotely valuable conversation, and any rationale for productive engagement.”
  • A poll by PR Sarah Evans, shows that 60% of respondents wouldn’t be swayed by the new site to buy more Skittles.
  • Etc, etc, and etc

Sigh. Sometimes it all seems so predictable. The constant flow of negativity. The need to show that ‘I’m not taken in by their sneaky advertising’. Jumping on the ‘this is just a rip-off’ and ‘besides, it doesn’t work anyway’-bandwagons.

Come on people! Where’s the joy? Where’s the ‘Yes, we can’-spirit we keep reading about!?

My 6 year old has recently begun spotting website addresses on things that I ignore –,, – pretty much *everything* has a website now, and they’re all the same. A nice Flash intro. Maybe a game or something. A code you can enter to unlock the hidden area. Yawn.

At least didn’t do that.

So, personally, I’m sticking with my initial reaction, “It’s kind of cool”.

They may not have been first, but they were the first Big Name Brand to do it, and that’s something. It may not convince 60% of people to buy more, but that still leaves a lot that might. It has generated a ton of publicity, and got them over half a million fans on Facebook. And it’s different and interesting.

Unlike so much of the commentary around it.

Should Brands Twitter?

August 13, 2008 by  
Filed under All, social media

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(and if so, how?)

This is a question that Bud, Lyn and I discussed for our clients at Step Ahead. Being pretty evangelical about Twitter, we wanted to try and figure out how best to use it. Short answer? We don’t know.

Rodney Rumford has a great post ‘33 Brands that Suck on Twitter‘ – the basic premise being that most top brands, Budweiser, Disney, Marlboro, etc have either had their Twitter name hijacked, or they’ve claimed it and then failed to use it.

My initial thought was, what a waste! Here are a whole host of companies that are failing to interact with their customers. They’re missing the boat, stuck in the past, and many other cliches, but after giving it some thought, that might be too harsh.

There are a few companies that are doing Twitter well – Comcast and Dell both received press for using Twitter to respond to customer complaints for instance – but, not coincidentally, they are both in the tech field, where many Twitterers are. They can monitor for “Comcast sucks!” and try and help. But how exactly would that work for Marlboro?

Further, it isn’t specifially DELL that is writing, but Richard at Dell. He can engage in conversations without having to worry about misrepresenting the corporate overlords. Similar to the way Matt Cutts can blog about being a Google insider, and offer tips, news, etc, but all the while he makes it clear that the opinions are those of him as an individual not those of Google as a publically traded company.

So, how can companies use Twitter? Well, possibly as a replacement for RSS -linking to their latest blog post, or news release – which, while not groundbreaking, I actually find quite useful for keeping up to date on things. I don’t necessarily need to have a conversation with everyone! Beyond that, it’s time to use your imagination, think about who you want to attract and give them what they want.

I looked at a few top brands that *are* using Twitter to find out how they are approaching things.

  • Quickbooks seem to be using it as a somewhat interactive training tool, with links to webinars, Q&As, videos and things.
  • M&Ms have tried to use Twitter to create an identity of the Green M&M character, which I’m not sure works perfectly, but at least is an attempt at something different.
  • Whole Foods is probably the best corporate use I’ve seen. They are actively engaging in conversations with their followers, joining in rather than just selling, and it seems to work for them – at the time of writing they have over 2600 followers!

So, we’re back to the begining. Should Brands Twitter? Maybe. I guess it depends on your brand and customers, but like with blogging, I think you’d be much better to not Tweet at all, than do it half-heartedly…I’m looking at you, MGM Grand!