Skittles Gives Its Brand to the Users, But Is This Smart PR?

skittles

When you visit Skittles.com chances are that you will have one of the following reactions:

  • OMG! Someone hacked skittles.com!
  • WTF?
  • WOW, what a brilliant idea! Why didn’t I think of that first!
  • Look mom, I’m on skittles!

Skittles.com’s latest marketing move generated a lot of controversy. There is basically no user on Twitter who hasn’t visited the site since the campaign started. Considering that Twitter has about 6 million users, you can only imagine the traffic flooding Skittles.com. I went there because the noise pushed me there and while I find the campaign brilliant from an online marketing perspective, the PR in me is outraged.

Skittles.com

The first thing thrown “in your face” by Skittles is the following message:

Just a heads up: Any stuff beyond the Skittles.com 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. Click the box below to acknowledge that you know SKITTLES® isn’t responsible for that stuff.

The problem though is that the “stuff” is not “beyond” Skittles.com. The “stuff” is on the very homepage of Skittles.com. Skittles uses a script to pull in search results from twitter.com – and these results are not shown on a different URL, nor do they open in a different window. So Skittles.com IS actually VERY responsible for the “stuff” as it is displayed instead of their usual homepage.

The debate was and is hot at Twitter. Some salute this “brilliant” marketing idea, while others simply hate it. That Skittles is scrapping social networks on their homepage seems like a “bad SEO tactic” for many. I just think is bad PR: as long as Twitter encourages users to add Twitter feeds to their sites, we cannot even accuse Skittles of “unethical” use of Twitter APIs.

But from a branding/PR perspective the move was bad. It’s hard to build a reputation online and Skittles just managed to destroy theirs. The brand is now associated with horrible racist terms, hardcore sex, spam…

Skitteles reputation on Twitter.

Users visiting Skittles.com are frustrated to fill in the box demanding demographic information that doesn’t go away unless you type in your birthday and accept that Skittles is not responsible for “stuff” published on their site. While I generally agree that you cannot be responsible for the contents of sites you link to, I cannot agree that you are not responsible for content displayed on your site. The moment Skittles chose to display Twitter search results on their site, they automatically became responsible for that content. If you don’t agree with some content, don’t publish it. End of the story.

Twitter is not the only API used on Skittles.com. As a matter of fact, the homepage “chatters” between YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. When you next visit Skittles.com there’s no telling what you’ll see.

The problem with this “approach” to social media is that it completely destroys the design and the usability of the site. Not that the old Skittles site was more usable – it was built with flash and it was quite challenging to navigate.

Old Skittles.com.But the new site is a toothache. Goodbye “WAI” ; Nielsen, why do you even bother?

Skittles chose to be in the spot light disregarding the less fortunate Web users. The need to be “in the news” generates monsters. Yes, Skittles couldn’t generate so much buzz with a new candy. It had to be some “brilliant social media move” that, in the end, doesn’t bring any value to the Web, but it will produce some dangerous trends instead.

For being concerned with fluff and selling hot air, Skittles gets today a well deserved PR goofy award.

If this was not enough, read other reactions from the Web:

  • Skittles Forced To Change Website
  • Skittles switches homepage from Twitter to Facebook (what’s next?)
  • What’s Next After Skittles.com?
  • Did Skittles scuttle its brand? Time will tell
  • Skittles Swaps Homepage from Twitter Search to Facebook Page
  • Skittles Site Receives an Extreme Social Makeover
  • Brave – and possibly suicidal – website from Skittles
  • “Interweb the Rainbow” or the Rise of Aleatoric Design
  • Skittles: the cause of all world evil or just clever marketing?
  • Tasting the Social Media Rainbow
  • Skittles Cozies Up to Social Media
  • Skittles Relinquishes Control

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Comments

  1. Mihaela Lica says

    Right – I was oscillating between writing this for Sitepoint under “webdesign makeover from hell” and the award – and in the end the PR Goofy award made more sense. ;)

  2. says

    Bravo on the PR goofy award for Skittles. It well deserves it although I believe the Goofy Award is much too great for Skittles’ latest blunder, errrr, misadventure. I’m not at all impressed. Matter of fact, it is sexist and was done in poor taste. I used to munch on Skittles in the past but won’t be buying or eating it in the future.
    I don’t support the PR blunder/chaos even though I learned about it days ago. Skittles can go on without giving it anymore attention or money.

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