Showing posts with label Skittles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Skittles. Show all posts

Thursday, December 31

Recognizing Reader Picks: Top Posts Of 2009

With the new year upon us tomorrow, we would like to say goodbye to 2009 with a recap of this blog's five most popular communication-related posts, based on the frequency and the immediacy of reader views after posting.

"What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?"

It is probably no surprise that our call for business leaders and government officials to change their communication struck a chord with consumers and communicators. After all, if we were to pick one word to summarize a common theme in 2009, it would be fear.

The message behind the post, which was part of a three-post series, was simple: if you want real change, you need hope over helplessness. And since most "leaders" seemed to struggle with the concept, we advised our friends and readers to ignore them and set out to find their own cheese. We're glad some people did because our government continues to push fear.

Related Labels: Psychology, Economy, Leadership

The Candy Gamble That Didn't Pay Off

For all the buzz-up Skittles earned in early March, nobody is really talking about the rainbow colored candies anymore. After the initial drunken rush of excitement generated by a Skittles experiment that turned its Web site into a collection of social media streams written by consumers, most people woke up with a hangover.

Within 48 hours, 44 percent of the public was left with a negative impression of the candy for trying too hard to be "cool" and eventually demonstrating it and the agency behind it were really clueless about social media. Effective branding, marketing, and social media require much more work than simply "turning over" a brand to consumers.

Related Labels: Skittles, Social Media

Communication Measurement For A Return On Investment

With so many conversations revolving around about how to measure a return on investment for social media and communication in general, we decided to share a formula that we've put into practice in order to measure a return on communication.

[(B • I) (m+s • r)/d] / [O/(b + t + e)] = ROC

Since January, more than 10,000 people downloaded the abstract from our Web site. And, after the initial post, the ROC series that followed remains one of the most popular published here.

Related Labels: ROC, Strategic Communication

Peanut Corporation of America Poisons Public Relations

The Peanut Corporation of America's handling of public relations after causing a salmonella outbreak will forever be remembered as one of the worst crisis communication scenarios in history. For almost three months, the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) tried to spin its way out of any responsibility for contaminating as many as 2,100 peanut butter products.

The crisis eventually ended with the company filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, after the FDA and several investigations finally concluded that the PCA acted with gross negligence and was responsible for sickening over 600 people in 44 states and Canada. The contaminants were also linked to nine deaths.

Related Labels: PCA, Crisis Communication

How Publicity, Public Relations, Social Media, Marketing, And Advertising View Publics

Published in two parts, we presented a model of how publicity, public relations, and social media and then marketing and advertising tend to view their publics. Both posts seemed to hit a home run in pinpointing why there are varied views on how to approach social media.

We remain vigilant in our belief that social media is best viewed as a new environment that deserves an integrated methodology incorporating all means of communication. From our viewpoint, integrated communication seems to be the best source to develop effective methodologies.

Related Labels: Social Media, Public Relations, Advertising

Five additional topics that came close in 2009

Where Edleman PR sometimes misses on the finer points.
• How spontaneous online debates can sometimes trip up experts.
• A satirical view covering everything silly in social media.
The ugly truth about some online consumer reviews.
How to demonstrate authenticity without actually saying it.

When I first started this blog in 2005, I used to lament that the biggest mistakes always seemed to overshadow the best practices. That seemed to change in 2008 as we accomplished a healthy mix of both. This year, communication models and theories have helped provide a better blend of communication-related topics. It makes 2010 seem even more promising.

In closing out 2009, I would like to extend a very special thanks to everyone who joined the conversation on this blog or across any number of social networks where the discussion tends to take place more frequently than in the comment section.

If you are one of the 3,500 subscribers or someone who visits on an occasional basis, I cannot thank you enough for making 2009 one of the best yet. It makes a difference to me, it's appreciated, and I'm grateful for having crossed paths with so many people online and in person.

Friday, March 6

Gambling With Brands: Skittles Slippage

"Just a heads up: Any stuff beyond the 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." — Skittles

While one of my favorite people on Twitter, David Armano, continues to consider the sociological viewpoint of Skittles' decision to replace its homepage with social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia; I keep turning my attention to the individual cognitive implications that the change may have on the brand.


There is ample evidence to suggest that while people initially encode verbatim information (statements and pictures), they tend to rapidly forget this information and retain only abstract meanings over a relatively short period of time. One experiment that comes to mind is that of Michael Posner, the editor of numerous cognitive and neuroscience compilations and an eminent researcher in the field of attention, in 1969.

His study demonstrated memory for an initial stimulus is rapidly transformed into an abstract code. In other words, when applied to Skittles, we might conclude that people will not remember exactly what is said about Skittles, but they will remember a general impression about Skittles. And those impressions are now left up to the people talking about the site.

Adding Up Impressions.

In effect, Skittles has largely abandoned brand management, enough so that the majority of the brand is being managed by social media participants. In the case of the Twitter page, what they say is captured on the site, and creates impressions.

Currently, two things are happening. First, the initial buzz surrounding the launch is quickly dissipating, especially around people with the greatest reach (large audience). Second, most people are forgetting the exact messages they saw related to Skittles, leaving them with abstract ideas.

What are those ideas? Everything from people who want to prove the campaign works by buying some to people who say they are poison because they contain trans fat. In fact, Skittles far outweighs most chewy fruit candy in terms of calories and sugar (depending on the favor).

However, what we know from cognitive psychology is that most people will not remember the specifics after a few days. What they will remember is much more basic and abstract. Or, simply put, they will have a positive or negative impression.

After conducting a brief but relevant scan of the conversations around Skittles, we estimate that approximately 66 percent of the participating public will be left with a positive impression and 44 percent will be left with a negative impression. Even then, these impressions, positive or negative, will not necessarily convert into sales. However, they seem to be doing an excellent in converting neutral candy buyers into anti-Skittles consumers, a virtual crisis communication in the making.

For a candy brand, there is no other way to say it so I'll just say it. IT SUCKS. Perhaps worse, Skittles has created an age barrier, which Kathy E. Gill appropriately described as considered an attempt to "try too hard to be 'cool' and demonstrating cluelessness in the process."

What's Going Wrong?

Some people are failing to interpret what it means to "give up control" of a brand online. Giving up control doesn't have to mean allowing other people to define you, your product, or your company. And companies would do well to remember it.

"Giving up control" means allowing people to decide if you have made good on your brand promise. And if you have not, thereby damaging the relationship between the company and the consumer, it encourages the public to let you know so you can either adjust the product to meet that expectation or adjust the message to lower the expectation.

Without management or guidance, companies following the Skittles model risk fracturing their brand because the expectation is no longer in the hands of Skittles, but consumers, some of whom now have a negative impression despite never even trying the product.

Worse, when the initial sales figures come in, Skittles might accidently take a sales spike to mean the experiment works when, in fact, the real test of time will be sustained sales. Unfortunately, if the campaign eventually experiences diminished sustained sales, it might be too late to turn back. It might even be too late already.

Can Skittles Be Saved?

I cannot stress enough that, despite the initial indicators, it's too soon to tell. However, there is no denying that Skittles has painted itself into a box. There is no easy way to exit a forceful entrance into social media. And, the impressions that a brand makes when it exits social media or are forced to exit social media much like the shutdown of the Burger King defriending campaign, are never good.

Already, Skittles faced considerable stiff criticism for removing the Twitter page from its home page. If they decide to exit completely, any brand damage might tip to severe. The candy will always be associated with the campaign that didn't work.

Don't get me wrong. I am all for experimentation. In virtually every class I teach, I tell students that they cannot be afraid to fail if they hope to succeed in advertising, communication, or public relations. However, slow entrances into social media are usually more sustainable than flash-in-the-pan campaigns. And, there is a difference between being fearless and foolhardy.

In closing, I might mention that while some people might be praising the sociological viewpoint of the Skittles campaign, such thinking neglects one very important consideration: Branding occurs at the individual level.

Specifically, Twitter can be studied as a sociology perspective, but a brand on Twitter operates on the individual cognitive scale. So while time will tell whether all that ends will end well for Skittles, it's already leaning toward fail after a few jumped too soon to praise what doesn't amount to much more than push marketing.

Other Views From Around The Web:

Charlene Li: Skittles Bravely Lets Social Media Take Over The Homepage.

Stan Schroeder: Skittles Swaps Homepage from Twitter Search to Facebook Page.

Laurie Sullivan: Skittles Settles On Wikipedia For Brand's Home Page.

Joe Hall: Skittles’ Social Media Campaign: FTW or Epic Fail?

Michelle Kostya: Flavour Of The Week.

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, 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.

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