Skittles: the cause of all world evil or just clever marketing?

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Whoever is running the digital marketing for the Skittles sweet brand needs to be given a medal. They are clearly pushing the envelope on what a brand can do online and are not afraid of the Wildean maxim “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

In April 2006, well before Twitter launched, the Masterfoods brand sponsored a little-known mobile social sofware site, BuddyPing, to offer users a free account under the ‘Skittles Big Summer’ promotion. The brand then picked up the costs on behalf of users who signed up to the promotion. What happened to that trial I don’t know, but it’s interesting to note that it even happened, because it was never widely promoted. They were clearly testing the water.

Today, they did something else pretty cool. They changed the Skittles home page to show a Skittles logo over-layed above a Twitter search for the word “Skittles”. Before you can see the full page you have to register your age, because they obviously cannot control what people say on Twitter.

I tested this out by Tweeting “Skittles give you cancer and is the cause of all world evil” and it duly appeared. That takes guts.

UPDATE: Of course, it may well backfire. Twitterers are starting to game the idea now, e.g.:

UPDATE II: Looks like they’ve been doing this with Wikipedia too.

  • Dan Field

    Very, very clever!

    They are also linking to Flickr, Youtube, Wikipedia and facebook for the other links on the site.

  • Tony C

    Brilliant strategy! It is also quite risky. Kudos to the people at Skittles!

  • http:/ Nicholas Butler

    This is exactly what I warn clients about when it comes to search and tag poisoning. The problem with searching on a basic regular expression without moderation is you can inject all sorts of messages into the queue.

    When Reuters were asking people to Twitter questions which they would forward under their account to Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Leader of the Conservatives David Cameron. I created the Tweeterator to help moderate question formats and control the content.

    Great kudos to the Skittles team for diving in though.

  • Rachel

    They’ll have known this would happen (well, I would hope they would). Both to Twitter and to Wikipedia. Hopefully the brand are prepared and will ride it out until it returns to the normal level of mentions

  • Dave Fletcher

    My 30 seconds of fame :

  • Stilgherrian

    What’s even scarier is that some folks, primarily Australians so far, have picked up the trend fisting meme from the weekend and have coined #twitterfisting — currently the hottest term on Twitscoop. Erk.

    I think that like the “-gate” suffix has been used for every political scandal since Watergate, the “-fisting” suffix now means something like “to disrupt by via Twitter” or “to disrupt with Twitter bots”.

  • Stilgherrian

    Oops, typo! I meant #skittlefisting. My bad.

  • Article_Dan

    What are the laws at play here though? (I have no real clue btw) Could a tweet saying ‘Skittles give you AIDS. Fact.’ be considered libel? Libel fed direct to the Skittles radar…? Small potatoes for them I guess.

  • 1000heads: The word of Mouth People » Skittles go super social

    […] Techcrunch has shown how the system might backfire, but by allowing controversial comments through, Skittles actually appear ever more confident and secure. In terms of brand to consumer conversation, it’s a nice balance, putting the product in the hands of the people while still retaining some control. […]

  • James Pearce

    The question is… whether Twitter are in on this too.

    To quote Todd Dagres, one of their VCs, last week:

    “there is a [Twitter] business model – it just hasn’t been implemented yet. All of a sudden there will be some changes that won’t undermine the experience or the vitality — but it will be pretty obvious how we’re going to monetize it.”

    Could be…

  • Benjamin Ellis

    It’s certainly an interesting experiment. Monumental buzz marketing – but keep in mind it is ‘just’ to the twitter community, so the audience are people who ‘get it’ already. Will be really interesting to see what the mainstream media (ie the world away from twitter) make of it…

    • Robin Grant (Managing Director, We Are Social)

      Eerm – Ben – you see this if you go to – so it’s anyone that goes to their website, not just the Twitter community…

  • Raj Anand

    Very risky strategy. I’m up for innovative ideas but to me this appears a little pointless to say the least. If this was a strategy suggested on ‘The Apprentice’ Sir Alan would have shredded the idea to pieces.

    Do you agree ?

  • Mike Butcher

    Raj Anand – Well, we’re all talking about it aren’t we? Chances are mainstream media journos are going to think the whole thing is a mistake, write it up as a joke on Skittles, and thus generate millions of pounds of worth of editorial Mars could never afford to buy. QED.

    • Chris

      “millions of pounds of worth of editorial Mars could never afford to buy” — Mike, are you kidding? the Mars company has billions and billions of dollars in cash. The Mars family [McLean, Virginia] is always close to the top on the Forbes’ richest list…

  • Adam

    What, exactly, is clever about using someone else’s page with your own logo?

  • Stuart

    There doesnt seem to be any value in this, maybe wrong and fell free to point any out to me.

    Yes they are going to get some age demographic and they are going to get one hell of a lot of traffic, but beyond that I think they are only going to get spam!

  • Simons Work » Blog Archive » Skittles goes Social Media

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    […] It isn’t every day that you see a marketing campaign that is a complete break from the past. Skittles has undertaken a strategy unlike anything I have seen. To be quite frank, I don’t know what to think of it. I’m not sure if I like it. I don’t think I understand this bold blitzkrieg. One thing I do know: Skittles has people talking about it’s latest move. If the talk translates into increased revenue, the folks behind this ad campaign will be hailed as visionaries. If this crazy Skittles advertising ploy falls flat on its face; no guts, no glory. I say: “Well done, Skittles . . Bravo! Visit Skittles Site . . . Read More About Skittles […]

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  • bob

    Bit like’s strategy for their music clients a year ago

  • Joe Dawson

    It’s generated a response so whatever their intention they have got publicity from this :)

  • Andrew Gerrard

    1) They may ask for your DOB, but you can still read the tweets as they go by before you confirm your age. So much for trying to make sure unmoderated content is unavailable to underage kids.
    2) I’m not sure the age demographic is relevant here – they’re going to get a bunch of tweeple who don’t care and who IMHO are displaying only a mild interest in what they’re doing, but who are unlikely to go rushing out to the shops. Still, if it’s branding they’re after…
    3) As for PR, I guess Twitter is flavour (sorry!) of the month, and they may well generate some additional coverage somewhere because of the integration.

  • andy

    Euros Inflations
    von Raivo

    Die Lebensversicherung ist in Zeiten der Abgeltungsteuer eine der letzten Anlageformen, die der Fiskus privilegiert. Denn unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen muss der Anleger nur die Hälfte der Erträge beim Finanzamt deklarieren – und das auch erst am Ende der Laufzeit. Selbst wenn dann der persönliche Steuersatz von bis zu 42 Prozent gilt, ist das immer noch günstiger, als alles mit dem Abgeltungsteuersatz von 25 Prozent zu versteuern. Doch vom 1. April an verschärfen sich die Anforderungen für die Bevorzugung.

    Dann darf die Lebensversicherung nicht mehr einfach nur eine Geldanlage sein, sondern muss sich wieder ihrem eigentlichen Zweck nähern: der Absicherung der Angehörigen im Todesfall. Dazu wird ein Mindest-Risikoschutz vorgeschrieben, der sich entweder an den eingezahlten Beiträgen, der garantierten Zahlung bei Fälligkeit oder dem Zeitwert orientiert

    • andy

      Sorry. Translation: I am a perverted monkey douche bag and like to hump and be humped by animals. German animals, that is.

  • Bill Barhydt

    The current model for Twitter is doomed to technology problems and at the same time is limiting their business potential.

    They re-factor the service as a Real Time Twitter. Here are the details:

    • Sarah

      Shut-up, you’re boring

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  • laptop replacement screens

    Good or bad, traffic is traffic. That’s all they need.

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