Skittles: the cause of all world evil or just clever marketing?

Whoever is running the digital marketing for the Skittles sweet brand needs to be given a medal. They are clearly pushing the envelope on what a brand can do online and are not afraid of the Wildean maxim “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

In April 2006, well before Twitter launched, the Masterfoods brand sponsored a little-known mobile social sofware site, BuddyPing, to offer users a free account under the ‘Skittles Big Summer’ promotion. The brand then picked up the costs on behalf of users who signed up to the promotion. What happened to that trial I don’t know, but it’s interesting to note that it even happened, because it was never widely promoted. They were clearly testing the water.

Today, they did something else pretty cool. They changed the Skittles home page to show a Skittles logo over-layed above a Twitter search for the word “Skittles”. Before you can see the full page you have to register your age, because they obviously cannot control what people say on Twitter.

I tested this out by Tweeting “Skittles give you cancer and is the cause of all world evil” and it duly appeared. That takes guts.

UPDATE: Of course, it may well backfire. Twitterers are starting to game the idea now, e.g.:

UPDATE II: Looks like they’ve been doing this with Wikipedia too.