Skittles, by *Micky via FlickrOne lazy Friday a few weeks ago we rolled out an experiment by displaying all mentions of ‘Econsultancy’ on Twitter onto our homepage. It received a lot of attention, and some people thought we were nuts.

Now Skittles.com has gone one better by turning its entire site into a massive social media experiment. It is possibly the bravest move I have yet seen, in terms of a global brand getting into bed with social media and social networks.

Simply visit Skittles.com to see how it works. It displays a Twitter search pages for ‘Skittles’ and adds two overlays, one asking you for your date of birth, and another navigational overlay.

The execution leaves a little to be desired, since there is no ‘close’ button (only a minimise button), and the overlay cannot be repositioned – as such it intrudes massively on some browsers / screen sizes. It looks and feels like an ad, when maybe a horizontal toolbar approach would work better.

But ignore this and you’ll note that the links in the navigation direct you to more pages of social media goodness (or occasional badness). 

For example, if you aim for the ‘MEDIA’ link and click on ‘Vids’ it redirects to the Skittles YouTube channel. Click on ‘Pics’ and you’re presented with a Skittles photostream on Flickr. The ‘FRIENDS’ link pulls up the Skittle Facebook fan page (it has more than half a million fans, and should accrue a bunch more as a result of this experiment).

It is an incredibly big move for a big brand. 

There are some signs of abuse, but – much like our own homepage experiment – the number of spammers is relatively low. And over time it should drop even further. Skittles hasn’t bothered to filter the results in any way, so swearing is acceptable, and there’s no moderation. Hence the date of birth pop-up when you first visit the homepage.

In fact, the first I heard of this campaign was when Mike ‘Techcrunch’ Butcher tweeted as follows: “Skittles give you cancer and is the cause of all world evil.” Sure enough, the (presumably) tongue-in-cheek tweet made it onto the Skittles homepage. Others would be seen as equally damaging, so it is going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Maybe Skittles employees eat so many that they’re remarkably chilled out about this kind of thing?

Econsultancy’s experiment was based around the hunch that most of the social media activity relating to our brand was positive, and in some way reinforces our credibility. It also allowed people to see how we participate on Twitter, and how we deal with bad noise.

I’m not sure whether Skittles is interested in engaging in two-way conversation on Twitter at this point (it doesn’t own it’s own brand on Twitter). Maybe it is unable to do so… I guess the sheer amount of tweets including the word ‘Skittles’ makes this a difficult task. But even if it is simply tuning in (and helping others to tune in), then it is to be commended. It appears to be an extension of the old adage about there being no such thing as bad PR. Everybody is talking about it.

Any which way you look at it, this is a sensational marketing campaign. Braver brand managers should take note.