Skittles Smackdown, a Sociological Viewpoint

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by: David Armano

So this will be the last mention of Skittles on this blog. I was able to share some thoughts with Jackie Huba from Church of the Customer (audio of Jackie has echo in the beginning). Bottom line, she doesn’t see a lot of value in the effort for the brand, while I thought it was just plain fun (and fascinating to watch). I think the real winners here are the employees of Mars corp who were no doubt GLUED to their computers these past couple of days. They got a first hand quality education on the social web that in my opinion is priceless. Money well spent in my opinion and insights that can inform future strategies.

So with that, I would like to leave you with one gem of perspective I came across from Steve Portigal. I spent hours scouring through commentary on this topic and even more hours immersing myself in the phenomenon first hand. I have to say that I was less than impressed with the quality of "analysis" out there and for me, Steve’s insight was like a beacon shining in a tempest of opinion.

I’m surprised by the summary dismissal of the reaction of twitter as "vile" and "immature." It might be helpful to be slightly more sociological (and therefore less judgmental) when considering a phenomenon like this. What were people really feeling? What drove them to take those actions? Skittles decided to co-opt a conversation, and some of the participants co-opted it right back. People used words and ideas for shock value, not because they truly held those beliefs or would otherwise use those words.

Maybe that meets your definition of immature, but there’s a stimulus-response here and a context, and I think it would be useful to consider some alternate frames of reference rather than dismissing them. And maybe Skittles wanted it this way; they said we could all play with their home page and indeed some people explored the boundaries of play. Just like we’ll put our face all the way up to a camera lens, it’s being playful. It’s a use of the medium that affords the individual trying to draw attention to themselves and "shock" is one way to do that."

I’ve followed Steve’s writings for a while and the guy knows a thing or two about human behavior and why we do the things we do. For me, his take is worth chewing on. Excuse the pun.

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