Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Skittles Social Media Campaign Gone Awry

Posted by Katie Noonan

While some are heralding Skittles' new social media campaign as groundbreaking, innovative and even "amazing," according to eConsultancy.com blogger Chris Lake, the campaign leaves the company vulnerable to one of the biggest PR concerns in the Web 2.0 age: a loss of control over their message.

I do believe their new campaign is innovative and bold. Visit http://www.skittles.com/ and you'll be asked to enter your birthdate to proceed to their new Web site. One quickly sees why Skittles would require this information. The background of their site is search results showing all tweets about Skittles on Twitter. Herein lies the problem. Third parties become the vehicle for distributing Skittles' message. Some have seized the opportunity to plug their own blogs, comment on the social media phenomena, or simply spam the page with vulgar or irrelevant tweets. Very few individuals have engaged in conversation about the product, and no one is saying "Skittles are yummy, go buy a pack today."

The social media campaign has certainly started a conversation on the Internet, so if that was their ultimate goal, then they succeeded. However, if their goal was to convert this conversation to increased sales, I think they may have missed the mark. A large part of candy sales are driven by kids asking their parents to buy them a pack at the movies or in the grocery store, but that demographic is not on Twitter, nor are they old enough to visit other social media sites like Facebook and Flickr (sites to which the new Skittles' site also links).

The whole thing leaves me scratching my head. Are they trying to break into a new demographic? Boost sales among the 18-24 set, or professionals who have recently embraced social media sites like Facebook and Twitter? Garner attention and increase chatter on the Web about their product?

The campaign is bold and provactive, but that it will convert to an increase in sales remains unseen, and their main objective behind launching the campaign is even more of a question mark. While social media campaigns can and should be utilized in the Web 2.0 age, it's imperative that companies maintain ultimate control over their message. Otherwise the brand gets muddled and leaves consumers like me scratching my head, but not necessarily running out to buy a pack.

If Skittles had provided a tab on their Web site to link to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, they would have gotten the best of both worlds- the opportunity to branch into a social media public relations while still maintaining control over their brand.

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