Skittles, ‘stunting’ and sustainability


Remember when the Skittles home page became a Twitter feed and the advertising world went nuts about it? Skittles captured 1% of all Tweets. Everyone talked. Brilliant.

A few weeks pass and now Skittles is back to zero. One of our critiques of social media campaigns is too many try to either buy into human networks (paying bloggers money or gift cards or charitable hooks for written mentions) or they “stunt” their way in. Stunting means pulling off a one-time idea that goes viral out of sheer novelty, but never can be repeated.

Are any of these approaches really sustainable? And if not, what can you do to maintain a message in the online idea marketplace?

2 thoughts on “Skittles, ‘stunting’ and sustainability

  1. Absolutely, the buzz has gone back to zero. However, I’d still make two points about Skittles:

    1 – It might be short term, but it got a hell of a lot of people to talk about sugary candy who would otherwise have never done so (let alone visit their site)

    2 – Even though it wasn’t totally original, the Skittles experiment (which is still on-going in modified form) called into question about what heavy, ‘look at me’ brand sites are actually for.

    As I always ask people internally, when was the last time you visited a brand website for fun?

    Though we can argue about the exact implementation, Skittles stripped away all the in-house frills and just replaced them with an unfiltered relay of what people were saying about them.

    Good for them for doing something 95% of brands would have steered clear of and getting us talking both about them and about the bigger picture.

  2. Repeatable tactics defines what is a “discipline.” One-off success can only describe a “stunt.”

    And that’s why I agree in principle with you, Ben. Pulling off stunts until people wake up and get jaded is just not solid strategy. It’s opportunism. Which is all fine and good, until you put the sum of your stunts in a proposal and convince subsequent suckers that they will get the same results.

    However, I will point out that a true social strategy is like a good PR strategy. It consists of the fundamentals of block and tackle. It’s a process of building impressions and contacts over the long-term to create ongoing and enhanced trust.

    So if this is the case, then the Skittles approach is still valid. (At least, as long as this was the plan and they stick with it, rather than pulling the plug immediately because buzz has died down.) Every social play doesn’t need to go viral in order to be effective. I would say most shouldn’t go viral, because the viral aspect will just taint the integrity of the effort and make it look too promotional. The focus instead, should be on the ongoing commitment to transparency and listening. While this won’t yield immediate and measurable results, the assumption is that it will enhance the overall brand value over time.

    Now admittedly, even this indicator can’t be measured to prove repeatable success as of yet. But if it does bear itself out to be true, then that will be the difference between social as a fad and social as a legitimate discipline of the industry. And it’s why it’s in the best interest of social media “guru and experts” to focus their efforts on developing this area over promoting these piddly little short-term successes.

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