Tasting The Rainbow: Skittles & Brand Ownership

Posted on March 12, 2009. Filed under: Facebook, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , |

Skittles.

Again this week I am provided with the thoughts for my post by Marketing Profs newsletter – “Get to the point”. Last week it was their coverage of the Cenk Uygur story and his view of the branding issues surrounding Michael Phelps and Kellogg’s.

Today, I was equally amazed to read the following comment in their newsletter, entitled “When the Crowd Attacks”, it tells the story of how Skittles tried to be involved with the Social Media crowd and got their fingers burned, Marketing Profs close the newsletter with the following advice:

What’s the lesson here? Simple: Don’t be afraid to let users help shape your brand, but remember it is still your brand. As in any healthy relationship, sometimes even prospects need a little pushback.

“Your brand”, if it were their brand then why would companies try to court public opinion and why would it apparently impact brand based organizations so heavily?  Just as companies have very little sway over their stock price because the value is controlled by those willing to buy or sell the stock so companies have little or no influence over their brand. Far from being “your brand”, in the world of Social Media, a brand belongs to whoever wishes to use it to exert influence.

A company that thinks they own their brand are likely to face a very sharp wake up call – Motrin anyone? Motrin displayed all the traits of a company that thought it owned its brand, the influential “mommy bloggers” proved them wrong. So did Skittles get their fingers burned by trying to play along with the Social Media crowd? As far as I can see they got some mileage from their campaign and then it ran its course, what they were guilty of was not recognizing the limited life that their campaign has. This is the world of Twitter, blogs & Facebook. It moves at the speed of crowd-thought, which is much faster than most organizations can compete with. In my opinion Skittles did the right thing, they tried something new, different and hopefully they have learned from it. That’s a lot better than many companies who are currently paralyzed trying to work out how to be involved with the “cool kids” at the Social Media party and not end up with a virtual wedgie.

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