Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Getting a flavour for snark

Much has been made of Skittles' decision to make their home page a Twitter feed for a day. In the slightly more than 24 hours of this 'experiment', discussion of the Skittles website dominated the blogosphere and Twittersphere. While most in the PR and marketing industry questioned the strategy behind a global brand (which markets to children) effectively turning its home page over to a community of strangers, some lauded the company for its wholehearted embrace of social media.

Sadly, things took a dark turn last night when online vermin used the #skittles hash tag to spread hatred, racism and pornography just so they could see their prose on the home page of a major consumer website.

Skittles' parent company hasn't come forward to explain its curious decision so it's difficult to know whether it achieved its objective but judging from its descent into tweets of vitriol and the fact that the home page has been replaced by a Facebook site, we can assume that things did not go as planned. It will be interesting to see how it's explained.

From a PR point of view, this case suggests that while it's okay to open up the airwaves to consumer feedback and dialogue, brands still need to maintain control of certain elements of their equity, the website home page being one of them. On the etiquette front, the open nature of social media invites people of all mindsets to share their opinions and while it's not unusual to see the ravings of a lunatic side-by-side with the musings of an intellectual, this was an extreme case of an Internet idea gone bad and sad.


  1. Actually, people were challenging the twitter stream at least as early as yesterday morning. I had no idea this or any of the offensive behaviour you refer to in your post were taking place. It certainly gives more context to your tweet last night.

    If someone from Skittles had actively been involved in twitter, I wonder if people would have pushed the boundaries to the same extent. I'm also unsure of why Skittles would move from a website designed for children to one designed primarily for adults engaged in social media.

    This whole program raises so many questions. I hope one day Mars and Agency.com provide some answers.

  2. I couldn't agree more. I'm sure if someone from Skittles had been involved, it would have tempered things somewhat. I am so curious to learn what was behind this decision and why someone thought it was a good one. I'm sure it will all come out soon enough.