There has been some interesting marketing in the candy realm over the past couple of weeks. Oddly enough, the two most notable campaigns could not be more different, so I think it will be fun to compare and contrast.
First, the new Skittles website. Go to Skittles.com if you haven't already. Much like the highly buzzed-about Modernista site of 2008, the content is entirely user-generated. The home page is their Facebook group, they have a Chatter tab which links to a constantly updated Twitter search for the word "skittles," the Videos tab takes you to their YouTube page, the Pics tab takes you to their Flickr page, etc. Only the Products and Contact tabs take you to pages that are not user-generated.
It's a risky move to allow a brand to be left almost entirely to the consumer, but then again, Skittles doesn't appear to be worried about that. They have a reputation for being controversial due to their somewhat off-color advertising.
In stark comparison to the innovative Skittles campaign, there's Snickers. They are launching a campaign that will include outdoor ads, TV commercials, and a Facebook group. The idea is centered around a made-up Snickers language they have dubbed Snacklish.
While some of the Snacklish phrases are mildly funny (Antihungerestablishmentarianism), most are not (Slay dragons with Sir Snacksalot). And I'm having trouble figuring out what makes this "new" campaign different from the one they launched in 2006.
Time to analyze.
Skittles went way out on a limb with their new website. Allowing consumers that much control puts a brand at serious risk of developing a negative brand image. For instance, this comment is posted on their YouTube site: "I'm amazed at how few hits this channel has even after the annoying Twitter stunt. You candies are full of insect excretion, and that's no lie." (Which, after doing some research, turns out to be true, although it's not as bad as it seems.) At the same time, the site is getting a ridiculous amount of buzz. Recency is extremely important, especially with candy and gum brands, so the fact that people are talking about Skittles (be it positive or negative) means the brand is in their minds and next time they walk up to the checkout, they are probably more likely to crave the rainbow. I think it's an excellent marketing stunt - yes, I said stunt - for creating buzz. Do I think it's sustainable? No. I imagine they'll keep the site up for a couple of months and once the buzz dies down, switch back to a more traditional site.
I don't have much to say about the Snickers campaign (which is not a good sign). I love to talk about advertising and marketing, so if I can't think of anything to say, that means they're doing something wrong. They are playing it way too safe, to the point of boring me to speechlessness.
To summarize, Skittles went overboard while Snickers went underboard (hey, if they get to make up their own words, so do I). While I would choose the Skittles approach over Snickers any day, I still think both of these brands should reevaluate their marketing techniques and strive to achieve a happy medium.