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 skittles.com, 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 – mcdonalds.com, orville.com, quakerkidsdoinggood.com – 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 Skittles.com 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.