— blending the mix

Skittles home page takeover – great viral or social media spam?

So as most people who read this blog will know, Skittles launched a home page takeover today and seemed to cause quite a stir amongst the only people who were really talking about it, the social media crowd.

 

The little widget in the top sits on other pages too:

…you get the picture…

I can’t criticise Skittles for the innovation of what they have done, but I do seriosuly question the reason for doing something it. What possible value can doing something like this create?

I’d love to be proven wrong, and there is some underlying genius to this but all I can see is that this is notrhing more than social media spam – an attempt to get publicity for the sake of it. Dirty data capture at its worst, or an SEO link-building campaign to kill all others…after all 582,000 members of the facebook group can’t be sooooo bad can it?? 

However, if you look at the conversations about the campaign, the majority of conversations are talking about the innovation and delivery of the campaign – NOT the product itself and why I might buy Skittles over M&M’s for example.

Accepted, good social media doesn’t sell to people, people buy from companies using social media because they have a closer relationship with that company, but

when the vehicle of delivery is talked about more than the product itself, what value is there in doing what they have?

A friend argued that the whole activity has got people talking and that in achieving this, he is more likely to buy skittles…and whilst I agree with his point, does this not take us back to the mass, impersonal audience tools of the mid-90’s…the online version of junk mail so-to-speak? Get in front of someone and they will buy.

The cool cats at Dutch agency Modernista do an identical thing (Skittles…sure this is all your idea??) but the delivery of this kind of feature is core to what they do – innovation is an important differentiator for them. But Skittles? Come on.

So, unless someone involved with this comes out and explains the motives behind it, I’ll hold back judgement on this (not perhaps that you care nayway) as a cheap attempt to get publicity and assign Skittles to the files of “social media innovation” in every good social media presentations….

15 comments
  1. Kevin Dugan says: March 2, 20097:36 pm

    I think a lot of brands are still figuring out ways to deliver value across most of these platforms just as their customers are figuring out how it fits into their lives.

    Planting your flag on all of them and facillitating conversation about your brand is a smart idea for most brands.

    But the way they “throw” the Twitter search at you is a bit much. I think this does a good job of cutting through the noise, but you bring up the most important point…does it ultimately wind up moving more skittles off shelves?

    If talking and search results was the goal, they achieved it. But long term I dunno how much I need to talk to my snack providers.

  2. Kevin Dugan says: March 2, 20092:36 pm

    I think a lot of brands are still figuring out ways to deliver value across most of these platforms just as their customers are figuring out how it fits into their lives.

    Planting your flag on all of them and facillitating conversation about your brand is a smart idea for most brands.

    But the way they “throw” the Twitter search at you is a bit much. I think this does a good job of cutting through the noise, but you bring up the most important point…does it ultimately wind up moving more skittles off shelves?

    If talking and search results was the goal, they achieved it. But long term I dunno how much I need to talk to my snack providers.

  3. Anonymous says: March 2, 20098:57 pm

    Hey Kevin, thanks for stopping by.

    It’s easy to jump on the “have a go at the try-ers” bandwagon but creating promotions just to have people mention the brand name is just tacky.

    Admittedly, social media is not all about shifting products in the short term, but how can this kind of activity shift anything, ANY term!

    One of the main points in a previous post I wrote, was about how in this new age of social media monitoring, that merely being talked about is no longer good enough – understanding the meaning of those conversations is crucial.

    Be interesting to see how this pans out!

  4. paul.fabretti says: March 2, 20093:57 pm

    Hey Kevin, thanks for stopping by.

    It’s easy to jump on the “have a go at the try-ers” bandwagon but creating promotions just to have people mention the brand name is just tacky.

    Admittedly, social media is not all about shifting products in the short term, but how can this kind of activity shift anything, ANY term!

    One of the main points in a previous post I wrote, was about how in this new age of social media monitoring, that merely being talked about is no longer good enough – understanding the meaning of those conversations is crucial.

    Be interesting to see how this pans out!

  5. MartinSFP says: March 2, 200910:40 pm

    Hi Paul, and thanks for the link! I addition to the points you attribute to me above, the Skittles site strikes me as an interesting experiment. Maybe they just wanted to see what happened? After all – how many people look at snack websites unless there’s a promotion on? I’d imagine most Skittles customers won’t even hear about what they’ve done here.

    No, it’s just a great experiment at using online conversations in a marketing context. It might get a few social media watchers (myself included) buying a pack of Skittles (I’d forgotten they existed until today) but I don’t think promoting Skittles was the priority here. Skittles is a low-risk brand for doing this just to see what happens.

    It can’t be done again like this of course, next time the live conversation around a brand is used in an unmoderated way it will have to have a more obvious aim or it will just seem like a gimmick.

  6. MartinSFP says: March 2, 20095:40 pm

    Hi Paul, and thanks for the link! I addition to the points you attribute to me above, the Skittles site strikes me as an interesting experiment. Maybe they just wanted to see what happened? After all – how many people look at snack websites unless there’s a promotion on? I’d imagine most Skittles customers won’t even hear about what they’ve done here.

    No, it’s just a great experiment at using online conversations in a marketing context. It might get a few social media watchers (myself included) buying a pack of Skittles (I’d forgotten they existed until today) but I don’t think promoting Skittles was the priority here. Skittles is a low-risk brand for doing this just to see what happens.

    It can’t be done again like this of course, next time the live conversation around a brand is used in an unmoderated way it will have to have a more obvious aim or it will just seem like a gimmick.

  7. Gez says: March 3, 200912:09 pm

    Now Paul, you already know that I think you are uncharacteristically off the mark in this one. I enjoyed our twitter exchange last night BTW http://tinyurl.com/c2s2rr

    Think about it. When was the last time that you saw a confectionery advert that described the product in detail or attempted to sell you on benefits or price? These are sweets, not cars and are the prime example of the impulse purchase.

    What causes people to buy on impulse? Familiarity, brand association, being reminded of a recent memory…

    It’s all about getting the name SKITTLES in front of as many people as possible and getting people talking about a sweet that has been about, largely unchanged, for 12+ years.

  8. Gez says: March 3, 20097:09 am

    Now Paul, you already know that I think you are uncharacteristically off the mark in this one. I enjoyed our twitter exchange last night BTW http://tinyurl.com/c2s2rr

    Think about it. When was the last time that you saw a confectionery advert that described the product in detail or attempted to sell you on benefits or price? These are sweets, not cars and are the prime example of the impulse purchase.

    What causes people to buy on impulse? Familiarity, brand association, being reminded of a recent memory…

    It’s all about getting the name SKITTLES in front of as many people as possible and getting people talking about a sweet that has been about, largely unchanged, for 12+ years.

  9. […] are some naysayers out there, including the normally astute Paul Fabretti, who are of the opinion that people mindlessly twittering the name Skittles, and people talking […]

  10. Gez says: March 3, 20092:32 pm

    Finally got round to blogging my thoughts. http://gezdaring.com/2009/03/03/life-aint-all-beer-and-skittles/

    Also, In your title you ask the question “great viral or social media spam?” are the two mutually exclusive?

  11. Gez says: March 3, 20099:32 am

    Finally got round to blogging my thoughts. http://gezdaring.com/2009/03/03/life-aint-all-beer-and-skittles/

    Also, In your title you ask the question “great viral or social media spam?” are the two mutually exclusive?

  12. Joanne Jacobs says: March 3, 20094:35 pm

    I’d like to focus on a few points here:
    1. ‘Brands delivering value': social media is about engaging with consumers and people interested in individuals and organisations, and their activities. The very notion of ‘delivering value’ (as if it is a one-way street) is to misunderstand social media utterly. Value may be derived from productive exchange, but it is not a simplistic act which happens to occur through a social media conduit.
    2. ‘What causes people to buy on impulse?’ What has been increasingly demonstrated in interactive advertising research is that brand awareness is much more useful for service goods than it is for FMCG. It’s certainly true that awareness has to exist, but continual re-eposure to the brand has neglible effect on intention to purchase. More importantly, there is precious little data to support the notion that brand awareness and intention to purchase converts to actual sales. And frankly, I’d like to see the number of twitterati who buy skittles as a result of this stunt. I suspect the numbers are substantially less than the cost of running this debacle.
    3. ‘Focus on a campaign and not a product’ When a campaign goes viral, marketers tend to go mad with praise for the campaign itself. The Big Ad for Carlton Draught (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eH3GH7Pn_eA) was phenomenally successful as an online/TV campaign mix. The Subservient Chicken campaign for Burger King (http://www.subservientchicken.com/) was also extremely successful in terms of the number of hits it got – although interestingly, very few people who used Subservient Chicken could recall it being a Burger King ad. But what is interesting about this and other campaigns (including the notorious ‘Cat Fan’ unauthorised viral campaign at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1045/fan_cat/) is that while awareness of the campaigns were high, there was little evidence that the campaigns themselves affected genuine sales. As marketers we do tend to focus too much on awareness and too little on mobilising audiences to act for a product or service – both in terms of advocation and actual sales. Getting consumers to focus on the campaign is actually quite simple – produce something entertaining and you win the battle. Getting consumers to act positively and developing brand loyalty is a totally different proposition.

    I still find the skittle tactics rather purposeless and twee. Yet it could so easily have been interesting. What a shame.

  13. Joanne Jacobs says: March 3, 200911:35 am

    I’d like to focus on a few points here:
    1. ‘Brands delivering value': social media is about engaging with consumers and people interested in individuals and organisations, and their activities. The very notion of ‘delivering value’ (as if it is a one-way street) is to misunderstand social media utterly. Value may be derived from productive exchange, but it is not a simplistic act which happens to occur through a social media conduit.
    2. ‘What causes people to buy on impulse?’ What has been increasingly demonstrated in interactive advertising research is that brand awareness is much more useful for service goods than it is for FMCG. It’s certainly true that awareness has to exist, but continual re-eposure to the brand has neglible effect on intention to purchase. More importantly, there is precious little data to support the notion that brand awareness and intention to purchase converts to actual sales. And frankly, I’d like to see the number of twitterati who buy skittles as a result of this stunt. I suspect the numbers are substantially less than the cost of running this debacle.
    3. ‘Focus on a campaign and not a product’ When a campaign goes viral, marketers tend to go mad with praise for the campaign itself. The Big Ad for Carlton Draught (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eH3GH7Pn_eA) was phenomenally successful as an online/TV campaign mix. The Subservient Chicken campaign for Burger King (http://www.subservientchicken.com/) was also extremely successful in terms of the number of hits it got – although interestingly, very few people who used Subservient Chicken could recall it being a Burger King ad. But what is interesting about this and other campaigns (including the notorious ‘Cat Fan’ unauthorised viral campaign at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1045/fan_cat/) is that while awareness of the campaigns were high, there was little evidence that the campaigns themselves affected genuine sales. As marketers we do tend to focus too much on awareness and too little on mobilising audiences to act for a product or service – both in terms of advocation and actual sales. Getting consumers to focus on the campaign is actually quite simple – produce something entertaining and you win the battle. Getting consumers to act positively and developing brand loyalty is a totally different proposition.

    I still find the skittle tactics rather purposeless and twee. Yet it could so easily have been interesting. What a shame.

  14. […] EDIT: I’ve also commented at length on this at Paul Fabretti’s blog at blendingthemix.com. […]

  15. links for 2009-03-04 « Sarah Hartley says: March 4, 20092:02 pm

    […] Skittles home page takeover – great viral or social media spam? I'm not impressed with this skittles do dah but this post takes a less dismissive look at whether the campaign achieves it goals. (tags: blogging skittles socialmedia) Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)links for 2009-02-15The Broad BrushMicrosoft to give free tech training to 2 million Americans […]

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