The Skittles campaign was genius.

Imagine a campaign that wasn’t designed to get people to buy the product at all.

Imagine a campaign that was designed almost purely to break-out from the company’s traditional market.

Imagine a campaign that despite only running for around 24 hours has had marketers and advertisers discussing it for weeks.

Welcome to the Skittles campaign.

The Skittles campaign was genius because it was not about reaching their target market, but they received a huge amount of coverage.

Nothing they did was oriented to attracting what one would think is their usual consumer base of 12 to 20 year old’s.

As David Iwanow notes in a forum post on marketingmag.com.au, here: “The interesting thing is that the campaign has seemed to have lost some strength as its recent youtube clip ‘Transplant the Rainbow’ had only 42 views at 1pm 11th March. Not the amazing figures that you would expect from such a large campaign.”

And according to Hitwise just 9.81 percent of twitter’s users are between 18-24, whereas nearly 38 per cent are between 25 and 44 and a whopping 38.80 per cent are over the age of 55 as can be seen in the graph below. If they were trying to hit their traditional consumer base they’d have gone to MySpace wouldn’t they?

hitwise-australia-twitter-users-age2

This campaign, I think anyway, was focused almost solely on getting bloggers, website editorial and marketing commentators to talk about Skittles and increase the use of the brand across the web. And they did it by stroking people’s ego.

Suddenly you had a chance to get on a major corporations homepage, but only for a short time. (Unfortunately the campaign was terminated early because evidently Skittles corporate tagline of ‘taste the rainbow’ means something different to those in the porn trade).

You can imagine what the campaign brief from the marketing director to the agency account director looked like can’t you: “I don’t care how you do it, but get. people. talking. about. Skittles. That’s it. Just that. Nothing more.”

And if you think about the campaign along these lines then it has been a roaring success.

Below are two Google Trends graphs charting the spike in traditional media and blogs using the word of the word ‘Skittles’ in 2009. As you can see the word was practically flat lining in the US prior to the launch.

This one displays the US trend

google-trends-us-skittles1


This one displays the world trend

google-trends-world-skittles1

In some circles, Skittles will be brand ‘foolish’ and in other circles they’ll be considered ‘brave’. I think they’re geniuses for jumping in to this and then flicking over to Facebook. Again, really smart, I wonder how many new Facebook ‘fans’ they got in the last few weeks post twitter?

I spoke to a director of George Patts some months ago and he said that there is virtually no one talking about chocolate and candy online – at least not in serious volumes. They’d used ‘Seer’, they’re technology for tracking what’s being talked about in the blogosphere, and almost none of it came back to the confectionery market.

The Skittles campaign must have changed that a little, surely?

Regardless, for a company that ran a campaign for no more than 48 hours and didn’t push anyone to buy their product they’re now receiving the kind of media attention you can’t buy, and can usually only dream about receiving.

All the articles, the blog posts, the forum topics, the discussions that must be happening globally in creative agencies right now, can’t be paid for – and almost none of it is happening amongst their core target market.

Is Skittles the first company in the world to successfully harness the power of the hype surrounding twitter without actually having to do too much on or with twitter? Are they the first company to successfully utilise two separate social networks in a linear way during the same campaign?

Skittles have quite convincingly succeeded at getting people talking about them without actively providing anything to them – except something to talk about. And you can be sure those same people, me included, will be watching what Skittles do next.

All this talk of candy is making me hungry. Maybe for nostalgia sake next time I’m in 7 eleven I’ll pick up a pack of Skittles.

Damn. They got me.

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