Taste the Rainbow? Or Hate the Rainbow?

This week, Skittles stole the social media stage with a campaign that pulled user generated content, Facebook pages and Twitter streams to the front of their homepage. You can find a great overview from Charlene Li here.

Clearly, the campaign had everyone talking, good and bad. In our office, there was some spirited debate over whether the campaign was cool and innovative or a complete dud. Since we couldn’t come to a consensus, we decided to present both cases and invite you to decide.

Why I'll Never Buy Another Bag of Skittles:
It's not that I don't understand why Skittles did what it did. Yes, people are talking. Yes, how the brand embraced social media is a first. Yes, it's generating that all important marketing catch phrase "conversation," but I think the whole campaign is, well, incredibly foolish. In one fell swoop, a solid brand that took nearly 30 years to build in the U.S. was reduced to a twitter stream of drivel. While we all know it's important not to shy away from social media, Skittles' way of embracing the medium is self destructive. From where I sit, its motives are transparent: the company pimped its brand in the social media sphere for some short term buzz that will do little to build brand loyalty let alone sell more Skittles.

- Contributed by Laureen McGowan.  Don't follow her on Twitter.  

Why I Love the Skittles Campaign:
Despite what the skeptics say, I think what Skittles did was very cool. They took a risk by letting user generated content invade their homepage and in some cases it worked, in others it backfired. What can’t be denied is the amount of buzz it created for the brand.

I would venture to guess that the majority of people tweeting, commenting on Facebook and posting Skittles videos to YouTube over the past couple of days weren’t die-hard Skittles fans before they had the opportunity to participate and truly become part of the brand community. Don’t get me wrong, I like candy as much as the next person but I wouldn’t tweet about my candy wishes under normal circumstances. That’s what’s so great about social media – done right, it engages the masses and keeps them talking. My bet is that in stores all over the country, people are talking or thinking about this campaign when they see a bag of the rainbow colored candy (I know I was when I saw a yummy-looking bag at the airport yesterday).

Too often we forget that social media interactions are great, but word of mouth and real human interaction, with real friends rather than avatars are the ones that create brand engagement and loyalty. To me, any campaign that moves the conversation off the screen is a success. So, will the Skittles campaign drive sales? Who knows. Will you be more likely to pick up a bag next time you’re given the choice between Skittles and Starburst? Who knows. Will you remember this campaign? Undoubtedly, yes.  In my opinion, this is a great example of a consumer brand going out on a social media limb. As someone that fits into the audience they were targeting; I’ll place my vote in the "love it" category.

- Contributed by Gretchen Bender. Follow her at @gbender26.