Skittles, Twitter & The Emperor’s New Clothes

So, the echo chamber that is the world of social media marketing has been ringing today with the ‘news’ that sweets brand Skittles has completely turned its corporate site over to Twitter, flickr & wikipedia amongst others. As New Media Age explains:

Skittles has given its US brand site over to social media and incorporated its Facebook, Flickr and YouTube pages in place of its traditional site.

The .com site of the Mars sweet brand also features a Twitter search, showing all the conversations, both good and bad, that are taking place about the Skittles brand.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Mashable think that this is just about the best thing since the advent of web 2.0 made it possible for geeks to get laid:

I’m not sure about the implementation: the navigation console, even when minimized, takes over an important portion of the screen; I’d prefer a StumbleUpon-style top bar. I love the idea, however. Skittles is basically saying: “We get it. Whatever we can do cannot be as awesome as what you guys and girls can do, so we’ll just link to it and let you do your thing.

We won’t see all corporations do a complete social media makeover as Skittles did anytime soon, but we will see them give more and more importance to the various social channels out there.

That, if you’ll excuse my French, is a load of utter skittles.

Why? Well, for a start, there’s the fact that it does nothing of the sort (i.e. doesn’t just link to what other people are doing). Whilst the Twitter feed and Wikipedia pages are obviously open to consumer interaction (more on that later), the YouTube page is all the branded Skittles content (though they did produce one of the best ads of 2007 which can be found on YouTube), as was the flickr page. Was? Well, as you can see from the image at the top of this post, it seems like something has gone wrong with their flickr profile. Ooops*.

And what of the stuff that is open to consumer interaction? Allowing people to comment on/engage with a brand isn’t always a good idea. ‘Conversation’ (ugggh) isn’t some sort of a panacea. As many people have pointed out, it needs to have a point, even if that is merely to be ‘entertaining, useful and…nice’. Well, I’m sorry, I just don’t see this doing any of those things, other than an initial rush of “Wow, did they really do this? Are they mad?”

Luckily it seems like I’m not alone in thinking this. NMA has posted a follow-up story with industry reaction. Amelia Torode, whilst calling it a brave move, asked

What is the objective?

Whilst Anthony Mayfield of iCrossing pointed out that this is a massive risk:

Is Skittles trying to move away from being a child-focused brand with this, it’s not clear.

And huge risk is an understatement. As I noted in a Tweet earlier:

Can you imagine if skittles had done this on Friday night? Would people have been #fisting with skittles

And, sure enough, up popped my message, with its mention of fisting** and all, on the Skittles home page. And what will happen when people start hacking the Skittles wikipedia page (which is what is linked to from the Products tab on the ‘homepage’)? Would you be a happy parent if your kid asked what fisting was? I doubt it.

No, I’m sorry, this is just a giant gimmick, as opposed to the similar implementation by Econsultancy which somehow feels ‘right’.

If it was designed to get press in the tech/marketing press, it will undoubtedly have the champagne corks popping. Otherwise I just think it’s a case of waiting for someone to point out that, as far as engaging in social media, this is the equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes.

*Now fixed, and showing users’ pictures marked Skittles, but even so. Any bets on how long before someone does something like takes a picture of a dog crap and names it Skittles?
**Full story here

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