Skittles: Twirlling the baton

It’s easy to see why Skittles would want to divert the attention from Twitter, because it is, as you can see, heavily abused by spammers, and a lot of the jokes are simply to tasteless for…well, anyone. That’s the ugly side of social media: a lot of it is completely uncensored and some users see this as an opportunity to get nasty or even vile.

“Skittles Swaps Homepage from Twitter Search to Facebook Page” by Stan Schroeder

skittles“Ugly side” of Social Media? Is there really such a thing, or are some folks too sensitive for the reality that people with varying opinions and social backgrounds are what makes up our country’s mainstream today? Walk down the street or catch a bus in any major U.S. city in 2009 and try to avoid opinionated banter with a little choice language. Do we take any of this to heart or base our buying decisions on the specifics of what these people say? It would be pretty sad to discover if we were this easily influenced. Instead, perhaps we should focus on why so many people feel it is their responsibility to voice their social and political opinions loud enough for others to hear.

As some of you may know (or not know) Skittles has changed its entire website at Skittles.com to a “social Media Hub” where web-savy surfers can access social outlets such as Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Facebook. Here, they can sound off about their love (or hate) for Skittles. Now, all of us can see where this might cause some controversy, but is controversy really a bad thing? At the very least the stench surrounding the topic (including the stink that we are about to raise) is enough to genereate audience buzz alone!

Something that much of corporate America is still having trouble facing is the intelligence of today’s online audience. Smoke and mirrors no longer work like they used to in marketing and are easier for web savvy consumers to pick up on. Younger generations (like the demographic targeted by Skittles) don’t base their purchasing decisions on negative or positive comments and reviews of a product. They base it on how many people are talking about it. Popularity isn’t always defined by support.

Many of the posts on twitter regarding Skittles aren’t really about the user’s desire to get others to try or avoid the product; They’re about being part of the conversation. That’s the beauty of social media! Raw, uncensored, reality. This is what today’s young consumer responds to, not gobbledygook from the mouths of out-of-touch internal corporate marketing departments. In fact, they laugh at the old-fashioned, being “marketed at” approach. It undermines and insults their intelligence.

Skittles is allowing itself to be associated with its audience. Some people like Skittles, some do not, and some just want to be heard. It’s reality, and young consumers (Skittles’ target audience) understand, respect, and excuse that. While it may be controversial now, it’s the wave of the future in terms of Brand interaction for for the “internet generation”. What’s more powerful than allowing your consumers to represent your brand for you?

Ask yourself this question: Are my brand, products, and services unique and strong enough to stand up to the reality of a market flooded with old-fashioned teqhniques?

If the answer is anything but “100% positively”, consider Skittles the leader of the parade and get in line. A bold move? Yes, but as Apple’s mantra for the 21st century goes, if you want to have a successful brand you’ve got to “Think Different.”

You go, Skittles. Keylex approved!

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