Would you make Twitter your homepage?
How about using Flickr photos tagged with your brand name as official company images or take what someone has written about your company history and products and use it as official brand language.
Sounds a little crazy, right? Or it might be intriguing, but you know that suggesting it at your next marketing meeting may get you tossed out the window like the Bud Light guy in that Superbowl commercial.
The folks at Skittles (parent company MARS) are only throwing one thing out the window — and that’s the traditional approach to brand websites. Log onto www.skittles.com and 2 bright red widget boxes pop up on your screen. One is a verification and disclaimer (T&C) clause that you have to accept. This is interesting. They’re attaching their online brand to user-generated content, yet MARS Inc. is not responsible for what you might see.
Just a heads up: Any stuff beyond the Skittles.com page is actually another site and not in our control. This panel may be hovering over the page, but SKITTLES® isn’t responsible for what other people post and say on these sites. Click the box below to acknowledge that you know SKITTLES® isn’t responsible for that stuff.
After you accept, that leaves one box cemented on your browser window, with six tabs at the top. The new homepage for Skittles.com is the Twitter search stream for thh keyword “Skittles”. Clicking on any Products link pops you to the Wikipedia page. Same for Pics (Flickr stream), Videos (YouTube channel — only 3 videos, but that’s another topic), and Friends (Facebook Fan Page). Chatter takes you back to Twitter search [is this a sign that the “Home” tab may be changing?] and Contact gives you a feedback box on the only page that looks corporately owned.
A few questions I had after my first glances at the site:
- How much monitoring is going to take place on all these channels? It didn’t take long for slurs and negative statements to show up on Twitter search (aka homepage), and we all know that anyone can edit a Wiki, post pictures to Flickr or become a fan on Facebook and post/tag rogue content.
- Why would someone leave a feedback email when they can post to a homepage instantly in 140 characters? I would assume the same person that gets those emails is also reading the Tweets.
- How will Skittles recieve, measure and respond to the Tweets, good and bad that are being posted? #Skittles has been a trending topic all morning, and the site just went up.
- Also, if a brand is going to base its homepage presence on Twitter, shouldn’t it own its own Twitter handle? As of 10AM (ET), @Skittles had 1 follower (and a profile pic of a LOL Cat), @SkittlesCandy was being squatted on by a concerned fan, @SkittlesUSA and @MARSInc weren’t in use yet.
- What do we call the new Skittles online presence? It’s not a true website. Portal, widget, application, channel, presence are all more appropriate descriptions of their new initiative.
- Will the new efforts make an impact on sales? @PRSarahEvans posed this question to Twitter in a TwitPoll . Early results showed 63% of responders say Skittles makeover does not make them more likely to buy Skittles.
The “who owns your brand” discussion is a popular one within social media circles, and I expect the Skittles initiative to spark another round of it. But I’m mostly curious to see if Skittles.com will change or be modified before the buzz dies down.
One last thought – I’m not against the new Skittles web campaign. I think its a fresh approach that maybe didn’t consider all the corners (or they did, but don’t care). Skittles and MARS have taken the “everyone owns a pice of your brand” mantra and acted literally. They’re telling consumers “what you say and do about us is better than what we can tell you”…although this also has the feeling of “we’re saving thousands in web development dollars”. Skittles deserves Kudos for their unique approach, but I don’t expect to see it copied soon.