Skittles, famous for 15 days?

Skittles, famous for 15 minutes?

So yes, I’m jumping on a bandwagon and my title should get me on their feed when we announce this blog post on Twitter later today. And obviously I’m mature enough to refrain from saying thatthey’re the root of all evil, taste of acidor that the old TV ads where the woman whispered ‘taste the rainbow’ at the end really made my skin crawl. In fact (just as an aside) any TV ad that includes whispering of any kind immediately makes me want to throw up or cut off my own ears, and that includes ‘sexy’ talking that M&S are so proud of…

I decided to write this post because I think it’s been long enough since the initial flurry of media commentary to evaluate what I think is an excellent social media case study, and I’ve been wanting to talk about it for a while. I’m fully aware that I’m just one of thousands who are doing the same, and whenIAB marketing director Kieron Matthews wrote about the application a couple of weeks ago, the response to it was incredibly mixed. The terms ‘creativerip-off’ and ‘strategic failure’ were bandedaround simply because a similar idea had been executed before… which confuses me slightly. Does this mean a brand’s own website is a creative rip-off? And every time a brand launches a group on MySpace, or Facebook, should be criticised because people have been doing it for ages? Should we disregard banners entirely because my God they are SUCH old news!? And what about search, people have been doing it for years now, how totally dull! (‘No’ is the answer to all those previous questions by the way, the IAB loves search and online display advertising, always has and always will!)

This constant quest for uncovering the ‘next big thing’, strivingto come up with something completely new and conquering online’s unchartered territory is, quite frankly, what may be putting some brands off. Why does there seem to be so much pressure to try something so creatively mindblowing and technologically advanced that no one has ever dreamt about before, let alone incorprated it into their marketing plans? For those of us who work in digital 24/7, pushing those boundaries may seem like the only option, but for marketers who need to justify budgets and prove theirreturn on investment in some way, maybe now is not the time to criticise brands who are learning from the work of others andadapting it to suit their own strategic objectives.

And of course there was the big ‘hoo ha’ surrounding the comments people made on the various social media properties, whichapparently meant the campaign was not a success. Shock horror, someone said the word ‘c*nt!’ Because of course, any kind of bad language or negative response simply doesn’t exist in our wonderful little advertising bubble! In my opinion not moderating or censoring the UGC was the best thingthatSkittles could have done, and rather than resulting in a big old public relations mess, actually made them stand out as a brand that is happy to open its eyes and ears to exactly what normal human beings may say to each other from time to time. Does anyone really believe that a statement such as ‘Hey! I love iced gems, this campaign was great so let’s all buy them!’ posted on some forum or other will actually have any impact whatsoever, whereas ‘Skittles: Eating one at a time or going for the full cheeked, teeth crinkling, power rush sensation?’ and ‘In business bored. William just handed me a skittles wrapper and said it was a fruit flavored condom. I’m worried.’ which Ifound on Twitter today,are a lot more authentic.

My point here is similar to previous points of mine, which is, why can’t we just applaud stuff that’s good!? The fact is that this recent activity probably had about as much impact as a TV ad would:it made them famous for a while, plusit was more interesting and actually got people involved.The debate about whether it’s worked is ongoing, and some make the point that all these online conversations were about the nitty gritty of execution and inevitable reaction rather than the content itself. But at least there were conversations, which the Skittles brand had sparkedand facilitated. Do I like Skittles? No, I hate the things, they taste horribly weird and are far too chewy. But do I respect Skittles as a brand, maybe even like them a bit more? Most definitely. What will be interesting now is how they sustain this chatter and keep consumers interested in the long-term.