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Skittles, by *Micky via FlickrOne lazy Friday a few weeks ago we rolled out an experiment by displaying all mentions of ‘Econsultancy’ on Twitter onto our homepage. It received a lot of attention, and some people thought we were nuts.

Now Skittles.com has gone one better by turning its entire site into a massive social media experiment. It is possibly the bravest move I have yet seen, in terms of a global brand getting into bed with social media and social networks.

Simply visit Skittles.com to see how it works. It displays a Twitter search pages for ‘Skittles’ and adds two overlays, one asking you for your date of birth, and another navigational overlay.

The execution leaves a little to be desired, since there is no ‘close’ button (only a minimise button), and the overlay cannot be repositioned – as such it intrudes massively on some browsers / screen sizes. It looks and feels like an ad, when maybe a horizontal toolbar approach would work better.

But ignore this and you’ll note that the links in the navigation direct you to more pages of social media goodness (or occasional badness). 

For example, if you aim for the ‘MEDIA’ link and click on ‘Vids’ it redirects to the Skittles YouTube channel. Click on ‘Pics’ and you’re presented with a Skittles photostream on Flickr. The ‘FRIENDS’ link pulls up the Skittle Facebook fan page (it has more than half a million fans, and should accrue a bunch more as a result of this experiment).

It is an incredibly big move for a big brand. 

There are some signs of abuse, but – much like our own homepage experiment - the number of spammers is relatively low. And over time it should drop even further. Skittles hasn’t bothered to filter the results in any way, so swearing is acceptable, and there’s no moderation. Hence the date of birth pop-up when you first visit the homepage.

In fact, the first I heard of this campaign was when Mike ‘Techcrunch’ Butcher tweeted as follows: "Skittles give you cancer and is the cause of all world evil." Sure enough, the (presumably) tongue-in-cheek tweet made it onto the Skittles homepage. Others would be seen as equally damaging, so it is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe Skittles employees eat so many that they're remarkably chilled out about this kind of thing?

Econsultancy’s experiment was based around the hunch that most of the social media activity relating to our brand was positive, and in some way reinforces our credibility. It also allowed people to see how we participate on Twitter, and how we deal with bad noise.

I’m not sure whether Skittles is interested in engaging in two-way conversation on Twitter at this point (it doesn’t own it’s own brand on Twitter). Maybe it is unable to do so... I guess the sheer amount of tweets including the word ‘Skittles’ makes this a difficult task. But even if it is simply tuning in (and helping others to tune in), then it is to be commended. It appears to be an extension of the old adage about there being no such thing as bad PR. Everybody is talking about it.

Any which way you look at it, this is a sensational marketing campaign. Braver brand managers should take note.

Chris Lake

Published 2 March, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (19)

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Melanie Phung

I'm surprised there's no mention of Modernista - this is the exact same thing the creative agency did with its website redesign about a year ago. Of course, I think it makes much more sense for a well-loved brand to do this, than for a creative/ad/marketing agency to let the Web define them. The funniest thing about Modernista's "site" was that the "homepage" was its Wikipedia entry, which was quickly modified to criticize Modernista for basically framing the Wikipedia site, among other things. As insane (and a bit inane) as I thought Modernista's stunt was, I do hope they get some props for pioneering this concept/design. (Do we know who was behind this campaign?)

about 7 years ago

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Adi

Certainly an interesting approach.  I'm inclined to think it's received slightly more hoopla than is justified but it will be interesting to see how it goes in driving new visitors to their various social profiles.

I noticed that their YouTube channel has only had a few hundred views.  Do you know how many fans their Facebook page had prior to the launch of this app?

about 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Hey Melanie, I didn't mention Modernista because an agency doing this isn't the same as a major brand doing it, and at the time I didn't think they executed it well. But yes, I guess it is a similar idea. The Skittles campaign was managed by Agency.com (who I also failed to mention). Kudos all round.

@Adi - no clue on Facebook fans prior to the campaign (I wasn't a regular) but as of now they've attracted 581,707 fans, so let's see if that moves northwards significantly in the coming weeks.

about 7 years ago

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Jon-Mikel Bailey

I think the navigation and overall execution leaves a lot to be desired.  I'm sure they will get a lot of curious SM fans poking around with all the chatter but I am interested to see how this pans out in the long run. 

about 7 years ago

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sean

twitter is taking the web experience to next level . and skittle is now at its best in implementing the social media applications

about 7 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

I think that the concept or idea of what Skittles has done is greater than what has actually been produced. The end result is fairly average, but what they have done is stimulate a conversation. As an ex-Mars employee, I was pretty stunned to see the 'traditionally conservative brand preservation at all cost' approach being challenged head on.Well done for pushing the boundaries, but shame that you didn't choose to take part in the conversation as well. That's the true Mars character coming through and really stopping you from pushing the boundary. Missed opportunity.

about 7 years ago

Chris Clapham

Chris Clapham, Account Director EMEA at Silverpop, an IBM Company

I think the concept is great and it's refreshing to see a global brand dive into social media in such a big way.

But have you seen the latest development? Skittles have made a change and now set Facebook as the main entry page for Skittles.com instead of Twitter. Apparently due to all the abuse via twitter. Maybe once all the buzz dies down they will switch it back.

It's a shame as it kind of goes against the whole idea of what they were trying to achieve, putting their brand in the hands of social media. It's almost a form of mild censorship now that they have made the change, but then if they are getting people abusing the twitter feed then maybe it was a wise move? At least they kept the twitter feed under the chatter tab.

It will be interesting to see how it develops over the upcoming weeks.

about 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Good spot Chris. Actually, I think they should be doing this sort of thing anyway. Facebook might work better than Twitter, depending on what they're trying to achieve. Measurement is key to understanding how things are going, but with something like this you can't make sense out of it by simply looking at the numbers.

The current Facebook page is broken: "We're working on getting this fixed as soon as we can." I guess that's one of the issues of trusting your homepage to a third party site.

The abuse has to be expected, but over time it should calm down. There are some technical workarounds of course...

As you say, we'll see how it all pans out in a few weeks.

about 7 years ago

Owen Blacker

Owen Blacker, Technical lead at iris

To be fair, the abuse is why I think it's a bad idea. Getting involved with social media is a great idea; doing it in a way that doesn't protect your brand is a stupid idea.

Facebook may well work better for them, though. I'll be interested to see what happens. But changing the campaign so often, so reactively, just comes across as poor planning.

about 7 years ago

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SoniaC

Great post Chris.  It's worrisome to think that advertisers might thirst for deeper analytics than they can use. 

I've also been wondering what the longer term impact will be on agency compensation models.  With the rush toward CPA strategies, I guess it will become important for agencies to create deeper partnerships with their clients.  Partnerships that are more transparent in sharing results (sales lifts etc.) and potentially working out some sort of longer term compensation model to reflect the halo or viral effect that can in some cases, go on for years after a campaign is done.

about 7 years ago

Guy Stephens

Guy Stephens, Social Customer Care Consultant at IBM Interactive Experience/GBS/MobileEnterprise

I think we spend too much time thinking about protecting brand reputation. Quite simply I think the days of a brand protecting its reputation are gone. The brand has become public property in a sense. People will find an outlet to vent whatever opinion they want - good, bad or ugly.

What the Skittles example shows is that Mars had the foresight to utilise an existing platform rather than try to create one. They accepted that there would be all sorts of comments - good, bad and ugly. They have gone some way to try and actively confront the comments, acknowledge that they exist. And for that they should be commended.

What they have not quite gone on to do is actually close the loop off and actively engage with the people making the comments. How much a richer experience and exercise that would have been.

about 7 years ago

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Barbara Bailey

Interesting experiment? Yes. Amazing? No. Far from it.

Since they switched from Twitter to Facebook to Wikipedia, I'm wondering whether the legal departments at the first two companies sent a cease-and-desist for iframing their content.

The login form to access the site makes no sense. The birthdate and acceptance of TOS provides useless information to Mars.  There is no link to view the TOS the user allegedly accepts, and since any numbers can be entered for a birthdate, the demographic information they are collecting means nothing. Additionally, this login form requires data and an additional click from the user, with no real benefit to them.

With a little creativity, this could have been a great campaign. But, given that the users just get to the page and say "huh, that's interesting," and then move on, the conversation this generates is short, average, and quickly forgotten.

about 7 years ago

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Casey Siebels

I feel that this campaign is a great way to reach a wide audience because it touches base on all the well-known social media sites such as facebook, youtube, twitter, and wikipedia. Utilizing these websites is a fantastic way of reaching out to the younger generation of online users. The reason why I think that this is a smart campaign is because, by using these social media websites, it has created a buzz that has gotten people to talk about Skittles, which is the whole purpose of this campaign. The Skittles campaign is not only profiting from this use of media to get their product image out to the audience, but the social media sites will also see some benefit from this. Meaning that because Skittles, which is a huge product brand, is using these sites then it will bring a lot more attention to sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is a site which is well known already, however Twitter is not and by using it in their campaign I feel that Twitter will possibly receive a lot more attention. All in all, I think that the Skittles campaign is a great way to use social media successfully. These sites allow Skittles to reach a wider audience and to stay on the top of the media transformation.

about 7 years ago

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Brandon Bourne, Designer of Precision Keyword Finder at Precisionkeywordfinder.com

Have you seen what Blendtec did with their site?  They're leveraging youtube and their videos are going viral.  They've got the traffic part figured out it seems.

about 7 years ago

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Social Media Optimization company Chennai

I liked the idea and did a positive tweet on it. I think Skittles is really smart and courageous to promote a platform that showcases both positive and negative opinions on their product.<a href="http://www.n-frames.com/">Social Media Optimization company Chennai</a>

over 6 years ago

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Pimps out

Social Media is a way to interact . Big companies now a days uses social media to interact and spread their PR news. It is widely used as a public relation news to disseminate / share news.

about 6 years ago

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cheap airline tickets

Social media seems to sit this weird mix between sales, brand development, and heavy consumer interaction so it's a little weird.

about 6 years ago

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AMills

I heard a song clip called Rainbow Stylin' at

http://www.yesnack.com/jo/rainbowstylinclip.mp3

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/williamavery2

Does that have any relation to Skittles?

over 5 years ago

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Mel @ Chromatic Tuner

Well, I may not an expert but common sense tell me Skittles is now just a Twitter / Flickr search result page with branding.

almost 5 years ago

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