helping brands make perfect sense of social media, from IAB UK’s social media council

By Shona Gosh, Social Media Analyst RMM

skittles 2Many established companies learn the hard way that venturing into social media means relinquishing the concept of carefully controlled branding. Once you’re in the social space, your branding and products become fair game to public perception (and evisceration, on occasion).

You have to hand it to Skittles UK. They’re obviously happy to market Skittles in a way which plays to alternative Skittle uses (projectile ammo) rather than a carefully controlled message (these sweets are yum). Few large-scale companies would be willing to embrace alternative product perceptions – let alone take it to the next level.

The campaign saw Skittles UK take on ‘Dave Phoenix’, who challenged them to completely submerge him in Skittles in 24 hours. The playful campaign was well-pitched, shamelessly stealing the ‘macho guy’ theme from Old Spice, livestreaming the carnage and providing excellent build-up and post-event content.

As PR stunts go, it was perfectly executed – and Skittles should be applauded for some creative brilliance.

Perhaps a more interesting question is whether Dazzle the Rainbow was genuinely social. Metrics such as live stream viewing figures and shares are not yet available. But YouTube viewing figures, comment numbers and ‘like’ numbers suggest that Skittles did not leverage a large proportion of their 1.3 million existing fans. We can all agree that it was a great PR stunt. But while shiny PR-able ideas are fun, true social media savvy comes from genuine community initiatives.

How could this have been more community-focused? While Skittles-throwers were encouraged to click a Facebook ‘Share’ button, there was little social impetus to do so. Once you had thrown your Skittles there was, for example, no social scoreboard mechanic comparing your Skittles score against friends. For all you knew, you were a lone Skittles consumer throwing sweets at another Skittles consumer. Rather than encouraging group activity, Dazzle the Rainbow encouraged the activity of many individuals. It may seem like a fine line, but it’s the difference between an online PR campaign and a truly social one.