With tweens, teens and colorful candy-lovers as its target market, Skittles has been able to take many liberties with its
social media branding. The company represents many of the
cool things that can happen when a brand releases its tight grip on
marketing. Unfortunately, its newest campaign is a prime illustration of how not to effectively "go social."
Who can forget when Skittles turned its homepage into an amalgam of social media updates and content? Most recently, Skittles convinced millions of viewers to tune into a live-stream wherein they buried a man in millions of pieces of the candy (each viewer triggered another Skittle to fall into the container where he was kept).
But sometimes, even brands that seem to have developed a formula for social media success can stumble. That seems to be the case with a new UK-based campaign dubbed “Update the Rainbow.”
Update the Rainbow is tied to Facebook status updates; users will post their updates to the Skittles app, and then it will turn them into "super mega" video updates instead. For the past week, Skittles has been telling Facebook fans in the UK about its new “Rainbow Call Center,” a make-shift office staffed with 20 people that would spend two weeks "rainbowifying" their Facebook updates.
It launched Nov. 1, so you'd think they’d have some time to work out the kinks, but my test of the app and campaign shows they haven’t. It also indicaters there are some key lessons for marketers hoping to generate real social engagement.
Step 1 – Build a submission platform that doesn’t really work
I tried multiple times to post my status using the “Update the Rainbow” app on the Skittles UK Facebook page, was continually greeted with a blank screen. I tried to no avail with both Firefox and IE; other users posted that they'd attempted with Safari and Chrome and got no results.
The app also featured a tab link to a “Library of Updates,” but that was dysfunctional as well. Finally, after about 30 minutes of going back and forth, the app started to work. I was able to post my update, and then wait again, as it spent around 30 more minutes uploading, moderating, then “recording” my awesome update.
Better late than never? Not really. There were too many starts and stops for this app to catch on with anyone other than a super-determined Skittles fan (or a determined journalist). If your app or submission platform doesn't work the first time, you'll discourage many potential users.
Step 2 – Don’t buy relevant search keywords to pick up “viral” traffic
While the app wasn’t working, I decided to see if I could find other status updates that had already been transformed into videos. My first search was for 'Update the Rainbow' in quotes. The first link took me to a strange video posted to the Skittles UK Facebook account.
It wasn’t a custom landing page telling me more about the campaign, or even the general Skittles UK fan page. It was actually odd and confusing. Other searches for keyword strings like: ‘update the rainbow skittles’ and ‘skittles uk facebook,’ turned up irrelevant pages and spam links.
This is definitely a missed opportunity. If someone overheard that Skittles was doing something “cool” with Facebook status updates and started searching for it, they’d be hard-pressed to find the Facebook fan page. Skittles could have bought relevant keywords to help drive traffic back to the fan page, if not the application page itself.
Step 3 – Don’t promote your YouTube Channel(s) in a coherent fashion
This campaign would feasibly be creating lots of video, meaning there should be some sort of branded YouTube channel where users could explore it, right? Skittles didn't seem to think so. After multiple searches for keywords and key phrases pertaining to Skittles, UK, updates and Facebook, I still couldn't find a relevant video.
I was able to go back to the still-loading Facebook app and finally click on links to the video library, and it presented the option to "view videos on YouTube." Yes! Progress at last? Not quite.
Instead an "Update the Rainbow" YouTube Channel (or even a branded Skittles UK YouTube channel), I was greeted with multiple channels under different random accounts like UpdateTheRainbow2 and UpdateTheRainbow5. Does this mean that there are 20 different YouTube channels for each of the call center video-creators? Is there some sort of central hub that connects them all? Can I search through the best ones and share them with my friends?
Preventing your own #Skittlesfail
The big lesson here? An ordinary consumer – even one that’s highly engaged and loyal to a brand – will likely not spend the nearly 2.5 hours I did trying to engage with a “viral” campaign.
Multiple missteps, including an unfriendly user interface (UI), a lack of attention to search marketing, and poor cross-platform promotion made an experience that should have been fun and wacky enough for me to tell all my friends, into one that I’m using as an example of how NOT to craft a great social media campaign. (Worth noting, I still haven't received the video status update. This is pretty much a #skittlesfail).
There is now a branded YouTube page where fans can find all of the video Facebook updates. http://www.youtube.com/skittlesbranduk
Thanks to Sermad Bruni, a tech/creative producer working on the account on behalf of TBWA, who tweeted the link. https://twitter.com/#!/sermad/status/29565064884