THINGS TO SNEEZE AT: A tissue
Things started off very busy in the morning but tapered off by the afternoon, meaning it was time to check some of the Numerous Social Networking Thingos One Can Check. It was there I learned of something that managed to be simultaneously amusing and disturbing: that M&M/Mars had decided to Latch On To That Internet Thing The Kids Keep Talking About and took their Skittles website and.
It is at this point in the narrative where we have to pause and scratch our heads, because when one visited the front page of the Skittles website (the link is left as an exercise to the reader) one found what very much looked to be Twitter's search engine returning a query for 'Skittles'. That is, a list of all the Twitter messages people had recently sent that involved the word 'Skittles'.
This dubious exercise was explained by a helpful floating graphic layer on the upper-left hand side of the website that read, and I kid you not: "Interweb the Rainbow!" It also had a picture of an angry-looking guy pointing at what appear to be I don't know lottery tickets or something, they've got numbers all over them.
This graphic layer also had the bonus effect of always obscuring the Twitter logo on the page. That's right, the fine people of the Skittles website had grabbed Twitter's search engine output page and not bothered to do anything else with it. The graphics are all the same -- hell, they even use Twitter's servers for the nav images. God damn, Skittles! That's what I call Radicalizing the Web2.0 Paradigm!
The upshot of all this was (maybe still is) that the Skittles website right now is nothing more than Twitter's search engine set to "Skittles" and an angry old guy picture floating on top with the Skittles logo. Now go buy some candy.
I have to be honest here and say this entire experiment is a grand failure. The designers here seem to have taken the Underpants Gnomes business plan for serious, but gotten stuck at "2 ..."
I mean, let's boil this stunt down to its most basic elements:
"I know," says Marketing Guru at a meeting. "The popular thing on the Internet today is Twitter. Let's integrate Twitter into our website."YES, my friends, THAT is what the M&M/Mars people are banking on: That when next you send a message to Twitter, you'll be talking about Skittles Bite Sized Taste The Rainbow Candies! And if you do, it'll magically show up on the Skittles website! Wowie!
"What does Twitter do?" asks Boss-Type.
"It's a website that allows its users to submit one-line messages all day."
"What do they talk about?"
"Whatever they want."
There is a pregnant pause.
"Do they talk about Skittles?"
There's a healthy disclaimer (and age "verification" thingy; I said I was born in 1909) on top of the whole thing, and perhaps the M&M/Mars people were wise to do this, because you can bet that once the Collective Consciousness of the Internet got ahold of this concept, things got a little crazy. Some Anonymous folks from 4chan are broadcasting anti-Scientology URLs every which way, while others from the tidepools of humanity are seeing how many times they can drop the N-bomb in 140 characters. Stay classy, Internet.
And then there's the replies to other people which include phrases like "come see" and "you gotta check their website out" which, much to my chagrin, was what the marketing twonks were expecting to see. And when they see that, they lose sight of everything else. Who cares if those kinds of messages are lost in a sea of snarky "way to exploit us" callouts, "skittles taste liek butt look I said it on ur website" japes, and other such laughs? The messages at least were there.
I do admit I played a bit with it today. For some reason a few of my other bon mots didn't show up (I was using twittermail or whatever) but here are the three that didn't make the cut:
Attn Skittles: Sylvester Stallone called. "Taste the Rambo" is a no go.My apologies for any inconvenience.andWelcome to Skttls2.0 Beta: Taste the synergized enduser interactivity!andWHAT HAS THE CAT BATTED UNDER THE COUCH? Milk Jug Twisties (15%) - Hair Ties (20%) - Skittles (40%) - His own poo (25%)
So there we go. Without a plan and just the vaguest hint of a concept ("grab a website's API and site design"), they've managed to accomplish the marketing goal of Getting People Talking. Granted, they're talking about how the stunt turned out to be nothing, and at no time today have I even considered purchasing a pack of Skittles, but that's not what counts at all. What counts is that we're talking.
Gads, sometimes you just feel so dirty...
But what does it all mean? To quote Mr. Natural: "It don't mean shit." It's an empty motion, a non-campaign that would've felt right at home exactly ten years ago. Only then its novelty factor may have a slightly longer half-life.
But it's doing what it was supposed to do.
How's a curmudgeon supposed to win this one?