Skittles UK Facebook Updater app

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.

Skittles UK Facebook page

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.

Thanks to Sermad Bruni, a tech/creative producer working on the account on behalf of TBWA, who tweeted the link.!/sermad/status/29565064884

Tameka Kee

Published 2 November, 2010 by Tameka Kee

Tameka Kee has been covering digital media with a focus on online advertising, social media and gaming since 2007. Find her at or follow her on Twitter

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Comments (9)

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Rachel Beer

Ouch. It sounds as if they over-engineered the Facebook app to the point that it became anti-socialmedia - i.e. mechanical and difficult to use. Aside from this, and the lack of integration - which is a major oversight - it also sounds to me like this comes down to the fundamental point that, first and foremost, for a campaign to be viral, you need a simple idea that will capture people's imaginations. There are enough campaigns, often grassroots ones, that have created a huge buzz, and amazing results, simply by using a Facebook group and status updates; no apps, no other platforms, no nothing. I'm not saying that's best practice if you're launching a social campaign, but if your idea doesn't resonate, your campaign won't work, regardless of the media you use.

over 7 years ago


Bangalow Accommodation

We are new to Social Media and just wokring out the ins and outs, and this is a very timely post about what not to do. It is so important to make sure that apps are working, otherwise the whole point is lost, and the campaign fails. I guess the Skittles example is one of "Art for Arts sake" or more aptly, "Social for Social's sake" without enough thought to make it work, or perhaps the opposite, the concept was over-thought, with little regard for the basics.

over 7 years ago



Harsh but true. In this modern social media world you only get one chance to get it right. If you get it wrong then the consequences can be much worse. Clients and agencies need to remember that a campaign like this takes time to plan, develop and test properly before going live. Unfortunately that doesn't always happen. 

over 7 years ago



If you didn't like it why on earth did you spend two and a half hours trying to make it work?

Silly arse.

over 7 years ago


Daryl Irvine

It goes to show a great idea is fundamental but not enough - execution is everything. A badly executed, one dimensional idea will not engage let alone go 'viral'

I applaud Skittles for pushing the brand as far as they do in digital channels but in this case it does look like a lack of planning (or wrong platform choice), was their undoing. 

over 7 years ago


Marvin Hunter

Um...I tried it and it worked perfectly. I think it's pretty friggin' cool. Maybe you should do something cool and stop pissing on other people efforts to do something cool. Yo.

over 7 years ago



I don't know what you did wrong, but it's a piece of cake to make this thing work. Just post a status to the Facebook app and they will transmit it to your wall as a personalized video. I'm loving it! It's a very refreshing social media campaign that actually works. I don't know why you would be nagging about it.

over 7 years ago



That's kind of an epic fail. But I believe for any campaign to work in the social media world, it needs to be simple and straight forward. IKEA did one using the Facebook tagging feature, people tag on an object to win and that spread like wild fire.

A recent not so well known company started a social media campaign called MAPOHWAA, seems to be very mysterious about it at the moment, but looks interesting... anyone know what they trying to do?

Click my name to go to the site or copy and paste this

over 7 years ago



We had no problems at all submitting status updates and we shared a couple of videos with friends, who then created there own status videos. Had a good laugh, bought a couple of skittles and continued with our business. So in my eyes this campaign was a success.

over 7 years ago

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