Skittles, Twitter Search and Facebook: a recipe for good publicity

From the Zazoo blog:

Skittles has conjured up a storm of controversy over its new un-website. The lolly-maker turned its home page into a glorified Twitter Search page on the weekend, and the company has been praised and pilloried ever since.

David Berkowitz wrote in Mediapost: “Today, when contacting a company, the first place I’d likely turn is its Web site. I’m saying that tentatively, as Skittles makes me wonder if corporate Web sites will be around much longer. The company’s new site seems to herald the fact that the corporate site is nearing its expiration date.

“…. Here’s the message Skittles is sending: What consumers say about the brand is more important than what the brand has to say to consumers.”

He asks: “Why would anyone care about what Skittles has to say? What, pray tell, could Skittles ever say that was so important, unless we woke up one day to find out that eating Skittles is the world’s tastiest cancer cure, or alternatively that Skittles lower men’s sperm count. Then, perhaps, the world will listen.”

On the positive side, Marketing Daily spoke to a range of marketers who thought the move was a great idea, quoting the head of eConsultancy as saying that: “Skittles has essentially turned its site into ‘a massive social media experiment. It is possibly the bravest move I have yet seen, in terms of a global brand getting into bed with social media and social networks … it appears to be an extension of the old adage about there being no such thing as bad PR. Everybody is talking about it.’

Marketing Daily also reported that: “‘Some will question whether it’s wise to give up control on the Web – whether this is a good use of social media,’ says Charlene Li, author of business best-seller Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, consultant, speaker and blogger (altimeter.com). ‘But they are controlling content in the most important sense, which is that they’re getting people to talk about and engage with the brand. It’s hard to get people to engage with a candy, but this is generating incredible buzz and PR. This is a big brand pushing the envelope toward what a brand will be in the future.'”

MG Siegler on Venturebeat was bit more sanguine: “In what is either a sign of Twitter’s ongoing transition to the mainstream or of a candy company’s epic laziness, Skittles.com is now simply a Twitter Search result page for the candy.

“I’m a firm believer in the power of Twitter Search as perhaps the most compelling thing about the service, but the candy’s use of the feature just feels gimmicky. It would have been better as a part of the site, not as the homepage. My advice: I know times are tough, but hire a web designer.”

He presciently wrote: “Naturally, people are already spamming the hell out of this. One tweet being repeated over and over again unfortunately uses a racial slur. As such, I suspect this little experiment will end rather soon for Skittles.”

Meanwhile, Berkowitz suggested that Skittles should highlight its Facebook presence rather than Twitter Search, since its Facebook group has an astonishing 587,000 friends. And as of Tuesday US time, after a puerile Twitter campaign, that’s exactly what they did. The Twitter experiment ended, and the Twitter Search page was replaced by the Facebook page. But the debate goes on. Of course the big question is: what effect will it have on the brand and on sales? We’ll let you know.

Follow the story as it developed:

Skittles Converts its Home Page to Twitter Search

Marketers Praise Skittles Gutsy Site Move

Why Skittles Killed its Website

Skittles: tweet the rainbow (or racial slurs)

Skittles switches homepage from twitter to Facebook (what’s next?)

Bad Jokes Force Skittles to Retreat from Twitter Search to Facebook

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