Skittles: A Week Later

March 13, 2009
Skittles Makes a Social Splash

Skittles Makes a Social Splash

Okay, it’s still fairly premature, but I think enough smoke has cleared to finally post about the most talked-about thing on the face of the earth: Skittles. (That may be a slight exaggeration — I forgot about Chris Brown and the economy. But it’s third.) 

In case you’ve been living under a rock or aren’t a nerd, here’s a brief recap: Last Monday, visitors to www.skittles.com were redirected to the Twitter search results page. Twitter traffic about Skittles exploded, to the point where it was causing Twitter to crash. Naturally, I thought, “How very cool is this?” I may have thought too soon.

As it turned out, an absolute social media bloodbath ensued Monday evening as Twitter users got out of hand. Since any and every comment about Skittles would appear on the site, some people began tweeting the most vulgar and obscene things they could come up with. It got real ugly — not PG-13 ugly, but NC-17 ugly.

But that wasn’t the end of Skittles’ new-media experiment. On Tuesday, Skittles.com redirected users to the Skittles Facebook group page. Later in the week, traffic was redirected to the Skittles Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, Skittles-related Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube content could be found by following other links in the site’s little pop-up that is shown in the image above. 

If they merely wanted a bunch of people to talk about their brand, then they succeeded. But this experiment makes it seem as though Skittles cares more about random eyeballs than targeted demographics receiving crafted messages. Can all this hoopla lead to any type of brand equity?

Maybe more kids are selecting the candy from their school vending machine and talking about it, but it seems to me that the people who are buzzing about the splash are social media and marketing types and tech nerds. Are they a big Skittles audience?

There’s no doubt that the raw numbers are pretty stunning. Take a look at Skittles’ traffic details at Alexa.  That spike you see was a 1,332% (no typo) traffic increase, according to Hitwise. That’s a pretty astronomical number, and the bold move has people chattering about the brand. On the other hand, it did get real ugly and there’s just as much criticism as praise floating around. Is bad publicity actually good publicity? What do you think — would Skittles take a mulligan if they could?