Thursday, June 11, 2009

Corporate website 3.0 – Skittles brave jump into the marketing future

Skittles went where no candy maker has gone before – and launched a corporate 3.0 website.

Skittles are candy products, produced by Mars, Inc., and part of the Wrigley product line.

Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling told the Wall Street Journal, that the site was redesigned to better connect with its core teenage audience, which spends a lot of time using social media.

"The teen audience relies heavily on their peers for advice on products. This is a unique, unexpected way to engage and to be a part of the conversation."

How does this site work? The “homepage” of Skittles is a small banner that fixes itself on the top left of your screen. No matter which tab you click, the URLs remain,
The tabs link to customer-generated content (Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter)

1. “Home” and “Products” link to the Wikipedia page with the product description

2. “Media” has two components: “Videos” that links to YouTube and “Pics” that links to Flickr

3. “Chatter” brings you to the Twitter page

4. “Friends” links you to a Facebook page

5. “Contact” is the only tab that connects to a standard corporate website – the contact form on the Wrigley website

6. “Other Gobbledygook” will take you to the copyright notice and legal disclaimer

7. The middle part is a dynamic banner. Once you click for more information, a new window opens with a dedicated website ( e.g.,

It is the first time that I came across such a website 3.0 of a reigning consumer brand. Instead of Skittles reaching out to its customers, it allows them to communicate directly and in a highly visible way. There are some possible pitfalls and dangers though......

Does the website reach the target demographics?
To enter the site, you must first confirm that you are over 18. (Before able to login, you get the message: “Hold your horses. Before you can check out, you’ve gotta tell us your age. So spill it”. Aren’t most Skittles-consumers younger?

Is Twitter a good choice?
According to Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategyLabs, there are no children on Twitter - the majority of application-users are between the ages of 18-49 years of age. Is Mars aiming for the parents of their child consumers or for a whole new demographic?

How are negative comments handled?
Is there a staff that monitors content and communications and that can handle damage control?

How does Skittles/Mars protect themselves and their customers from malware and Web 2.0 threats
It is quite easy for cybercrooks to inject malicious code in any of the pages. (Michael Gray provides some great advise on his SEO blog)

What about SEO?
The site consists of an iframe with almost no independent content. Technically, Facebook, Twitter or Wikipedia are not visited, but the Skittles’ website pulls the content for you into an iframe.

How will it affect the overall Mars brand?
Did the the flood of obscene, racist, and otherwise tasteless tweets have an impact?

The website was launched in March 2009 and designed by
According to agency’s executive director Chad Stoller: “It is a very bold campaign in the sense that they are letting consumers speak on behalf of the brand."

My personal take: I love the fact that Skittles embraced Web 3.0 and is brave enough to relinquish control. But it might too much unchartered territory with unpredictable and even uncontrollable results. I hope that Skittles will tell us how they fared – up till now, there have been no announcements or reactions from Mars or the agency. No matter what, I predict that this one will make it many MBA course materials and marketing handbooks.

In the mean time, all I can say is: chapeau!

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