I was asked the other day what I thought about Skittles' social media experiment and whether it would have lasting effects.

My response: I wasn't sure. The buzz seems to have died down. Certainly it's nowhere near the pitch that it was when we all first learned that Skittles.com had been turned into Twitter.

Is Skittles' use of social media clever? Smart? A novelty? Short-term or long-term?

These are all tough questions to answer and there are a lot of ways to evaluate them. Nonetheless, it's my opinion that Skittles' effort, no matter how 'clever', looks more like a novelty than anything else.

Sure. With little cost, Skittles created buzz. In the fast-paced world we live in that's often very hard for marketers to do. So there's definitely value there; maybe enough to make the effort worthwhile.

In my opinion, the biggest challenge in social media is not measuring ROI (there are plenty of ways to do that); the biggest challenge in social media going beyond buzz.

How do you take a social media campaign beyond the initial euphoria? How do you build on it? How do you keep people engaged? I think it has to do with something a lot of these experiments are missing: a coherent message.

What statement was Skittles trying to make? Who was it trying to make that statement to?

Twitter is a tool. That tool can be used to make a statement. I am still trying to figure out what statement Skittles was making and I suspect a lot of others are too.

Successful branding relies on successful messaging. The Louis Vuitton brand conveys luxury. The Toyota brand conveys reliability. The Apple brand conveys innovation.

Oftentimes a brand is associated with a lifestyle or value system and its messaging, not coincidentally, usually conveys that lifestyle and values. The reason: the message is tailored to appeal to people who live that lifestyle, who share those values.

What exactly did Skittles reinforce by turning its homepage into a Twitterstream? That's the $64,000 question the people in charge of the Skittles brand should be asking themselves because the truth is that buzz doesn't build, reinvigorate or reinvent brands.

A coherent message does.

I think that's something marketers need to keep in mind when they experiment with the ever-growing world of social media. If brands see social media as little more than a cheap tool for getting some short-term attention, they might as well stay home. Branding is a long-term game.

The real potential for social media, like all forms of media, lies in the ways it can be used convey and reinforce a brand's message. Any focus on viral buzz, PR hits or ROI outside of overarching brand strategy and brand messaging is putting the cart before the horse and selling yourself short.

Patricio Robles

Published 10 March, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (2)



I blogged about this a few days ago, I feel that the Skittles type website would do far better on an internal Intranet than on an external website.  One of the major plusses of social media is that it connects a company up with what people are saying about it.  The problem is that in many companies few outside the web/marketing departments know any of this. 

By putting such an app front and centre of your Intranet you go some way to solving that problem without worrying about all the hijacking nonsense that Skittles suffered on Twitter.

over 9 years ago


Adrian Land

I am loving the debate over social media and what is its role for businesses.  

We are all learning a lot, experimenting some and even power struggling for corporate ownership.

This can mean that the internal committees do create a lot of camels.  And depending on what brand you work on how this could be just an extension of branding (extension to a tv campaign etc) or the comms team, or if you are brave, customer support.

I guess the only measure of success, is if it meets their own objectives.

Not a fan of their campaign myself, but some of my stuff now I would argue could of been a lot better.  But, I know that now.

almost 8 years ago

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