A month ago Mars, incorporated made a bold move when it decided to scrap its traditional brand website for tastemaker Skittles in favor of embracing the social cloud. While I give props to their willingness to break from corporate convention and become a part of the evolving consumer dialogue; they really missed out on creating what could have been a game-changing consumer experience.
The first thing I noticed when visiting Skittles’ new digital home was the lack of ownership by the brand – for anything. I was greeted by a bratty little pop up that required me to input my birthdate and agree to their CYA disclaimer before being able to proceed. Wow, since when does one need to be carded to browse the candy aisle? Will there be a breathalyzer if I can’t click a straight line with my cursor or slur my ABCs backwards? Okay, I digress, but my little pop up experience doesn’t offer much in the way of warm fuzzies. Truthfully, I felt more of a “proceed at your own risk”…”don’t say we didn’t warn you” kind of vibe. Hmmm.
Once I landed inside, I felt like I had just walked in on a bunch of people who were engrossed in their favorite TV episode or sports event. The default YouTube channel background was doing its thing mindless of its new guest. I noticed a hovering menu board playing intermittent messages that felt more like infomercials or the oh so sleepy elevator muzak you hear over and over. Would have really appreciated a “what’s up” and “can I get you anything” message instead. Scrolling through the menu board, I find the expected product info, a link to a Twitter search on “skittles” tweets and a link to the Skittles Facebook fan page. Hmmm. Maybe I’m missing it, but couldn’t I have found these on my own? Besides aggregating the top 3 social hubs that mention their brand, I was still scratching my head to understand how Skittles was participating in the conversation. What value were they adding?
You see, I was hoping to get
to know Skittles – listen to their story and hope they wanted to hear mine –
better yet, meet other people and listen, laugh, whatever to their
stories. Instead, I felt like I had just
dropped by someone’s house, came through the garage, popped in, but not really
made to feel welcome to stay and hang a while.
In contrast to the Skittles experience, I am fortunate to know some good
friends of mine whom constantly have a stream of college, high school students
and young professionals in their home.
When you walk in, you’re greeted, invited to sit down, visit and share a
meal/drink with them. There is real
interaction amongst the guests and their hosts – in short, there is a sense of
true fellowship and belonging that stays with you, long after you leave. Why couldn’t Skittles have been more like
Hopefully, this is the
beginning of an evolution for Skittles on the road to digital. After all, you only learn by doing – so
again, snaps to them for getting out there.
A few things they might consider as they tweak their strategy…move the
furniture around so to speak:
1. Greet people – acknowledge guests when they show up not with a disclaimer, but with a friendly welcome. Ask them what are they up to, can you get them anything and invite them to sit and hang awhile. Integrating instant messenger or Twitter widget that I could text in or DM from my Twitter would be excellent way to start some dialogue.
2. Draw guests in – Offer guests to take some candy from the Skittles bowl or better yet, ask what their favorite flavor is and offer them to explore the Skittle’s home and meet fellow rainbowrati via signing in with Facebook Connect or Twitter Handle. Suggest they might want to go to a specific space based on where their friends are or new people who share their rainbow interests.
3. Spend time with them in your crib – The best times/memories usually come from playing games or watching entertainment with friends. Make the visit memorable by hosting a social game (incorporating mobile participants is a plus) or group rant fest on a new video. Get visitors and regulars alike to tell and share some stories from the rainbow of daily life.
4. Walk guests to the door – When a user has to go, thank them for dropping by and invite them to come back again soon. Ask if they would like any Skittles for the road. Let them know how they can stay connected.
5. Be a thoughtful friend – in between visits, let your new friends/fans know you’re thinking about them. Tweet or Facebook them a coupon for a free pack of Skittles to cure the Monday blues, get through another Wednesday math pop quiz or cruise with friends on another Friday night out. If they are really having a bad day/week – a couple of movie passes work wonders. Three guesses on what they will be snacking on at the theater.
Ultimately, people want to
feel that they’ve discovered a pot of gold at the end of the elusive
rainbow. For now, I’m still searching. Someone please pass the Skittles bowl.
Ultimately, people want to feel that they’ve discovered a pot of gold at the end of the elusive rainbow. For now, I’m still searching. Someone please pass the Skittles bowl.