Tuesday, March 3

Buzzing Boondoggle: Skittles

How does Skittles measure success?

The 250,000 blog posts about the new site that broadcasts consumer comments back at them (and counting)? The 240 mainstream articles, including the Wall Street Journal blog (and counting)? How long #Skittles stays in the top ten most talked about subjects on Twitter?

Congratulations. You're being talked about. Now what?

For all the buzz about the new Skittles site, one wonders if the candy company might just jump the shark. Skittles, which has temporarily (underscore temporarily since it will be putting back its home page soon enough) has turned to social media as its primary marketing push online.

While there are scores of complimentary and contrary opinions to choose from, its still too early to determine whether their social media stunt might produce tangible outcomes. The smarter choice, for now, is to consider it as a living case study, with four basic observations up front.

• The reach might be too far. There seems to be no escape from the buzz on social networks like Twitter, which is irritating some participants. The primary reason for all the buzz up on Twitter is vanity over candy. Any time someone says anything about Skittles, they pop up on the current Skittles homepage (which will be regulated to chatter soon enough). Simply put, Skittles may be alienating its audience by focusing too much on atmosphere, which is something I wrote about just yesterday.

• The impressions aren't all positive. Almost 75 percent of the impressions being left and lofted at the Skittles site via Twitter and across various blogs are off topic or negative. It's one thing to praise buzz, but something else all together to consider a campaign a success when the negative impressions start to outpace positive impressions.

• Sustainability is a watch point. Talking about Skittles just isn't all that sustainable. The company runs a real risk of encouraging people to talk about the site so much, they will get sick of the shallow chat and stop talking about it all together. Right, there is a valid reason that most movie franchises are generally confined to a limited number of installments. Communication overload can kill interest.

• Skittles and its return on communication. There are only two real outcomes that may determine if the Skittles social media campaign is a success. First, what is the net sum of all positive and negative impressions? Currently, it seems they are losing ground. However, I have to concede that this may change once the initial buzz up wears off (unless some consumers go out of their way to attack it). The second measure is sales. In all fairness, we have to wait and see.

Even more interesting to me is why this marketing program seems to be getting so much attention for a program that is not new. The concept has been around for some time; we even wrote about it in February. In fact, using Tweetfeed.com, Skittles could have done the exact same thing, but benefited from better background.

Of course, there is that other thing too. One wonders what the response will be like when Skittles puts its homepage back up, regulating the Twitter stream to the chatter button. It makes me hope that someone has a contingency plan for what could be billed as a short-term publicity stunt that fails at authenticity. My guess is there isn't one.

Why? They were in such a rush for buzz up that they neglected to consider how annoying it is to type in your birthdate on every single visit. Not only is it annoying, but any data capturing at this point is futile because the bulk of their visitors are visiting out of curiosity and not because they are interested in consuming candy.


Rich on 3/3/09, 12:56 PM said...


Skittles has already made two changes to its site:

The age identification request has been removed.

And, Twitter, has been regulated to the chatter button in favor of the Facebook. According to Mashable, hecklers are to blame. I doubt it.

More likely, the site is designed to toggle different home pages, or, as we mentioned, a permanent home page will eventually be introduced.

Rich on 3/3/09, 3:06 PM said...


Amazingly enough, some Twitter participants have now decided to promote Starbust over Skittles. Starbust now has it's own searchable # tag. (Of course, they are both Mars products.)

As part of the predicted pushback for removing Twitter as its home page, a poll on AdFreak shows the Skittles campaign failing, even drawing anger from some marketing types after they remember Agency.com's doomed Subway pitch video.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me the folks at Mars are making the same mistake that Graham Langdon made when he posted on the EC blog a running stream of all tweets mentioning Entrecard. Turnipofpower, one of the sites top users tweeted a mildly profane remark referring to an unflattering picture Landon posted of himself wearing an ugly hat (#asshat). Whereupon Langdon immediately and without any notice or discussion banned Turnip from EC. (I wrote about that episode here: http://outofit-personal.blogspot.com/2008/12/time-to-end-entrecard-participation.html

The net result of that little fiasco is that many of Entrecard's former top blogs have quit the service and moved over to http://cmfads.com and many of us now look at Entrecard as a sinking ship.

Posting EVERYTHING that EVERYONE says about you on your home page is NOT a good idea. If _I_ can see that very clearly, I can't help but wonder why the folks at Mars don't get this.

Rich on 3/4/09, 10:19 AM said...


Sometimes it takes a participant to know these things. And in this case, the agency seems like less of a participant than someone who wants to appear as one.

While I encourage discussion and sometimes discourse on this blog, I've been doing this for years. I can safely say that while it is never a good idea to run from negative comments (or hide them), it is equally and absolutely a bad idea for a company to allow the message to manage it.

That seems to be exactly what Skittles has done.

Businesses need to look beyond the B.S. and appreciate that the principals of strategic communication remain the same. It is not buzz that propels a product AND creates brand equity. It is, in contrast, a well-thought out plan that defines who you are, what you do, and then meets those promises through interaction and carefully guided action.

It's simple in statement, but complex in practice. :)

You seem to understand that better than Mars and the agency managing their account. Ha!

Good example with Entrecard. After testing it for more than a year, I use to maintain a few key relationships but never saw it as a benefit for any business. I like some of the people there, especially those I already knew at BlogCatalog.

I guess I will have to visit the new network you mentioned. :)

All my best,

Rich on 3/5/09, 6:19 AM said...


The age registration returns, but with an explanation:

"Just a heads up: Any stuff beyond the Skittles.com page is actually another site and not in our control. This panel may be hovering over the page, but SKITTLES® isn't responsible for what other people post and say on these sites. Click the box below to acknowledge that you know SKITTLES® isn't responsible for that stuff."

It's indicative of a brand that has lost its ability to manage its own message. Imagine, a candy Web site that cannot be accessed by kids.

If you do not manage your message, your message will manage you. We'll have a full update on Skittles next Tuesday.



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