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Skittles has made the bold decision to give up control of its Web site, offering little of its own content and leaving it without any company-driven branding.

As the first consumer packaged goods company to issue an uncontrolled site, Skittles.com asks new entrants for their birthday, similar to an alcohol or cigarette company Web site might. This precaution is not to imply that Skittles are only for consumers of a certain age, but because Skittles has no control over the content, anything explicit is fair game.

After entering the site, visitors immediately access the company’s flickr page, to which anyone can upload photos. The navigation panel appears as an overlay over the page with different options, most of which forward users to alternative social media sites for the brand. “Clatter” sends the customers to a Twitter site where they can view various Tweets; “Media” sends them to YouTube for videos or back to Flickr for photos; and “Friends” sends people to Skittles’ Facebook page. Even the “Product” link sends the customer to a Wikipedia page.

The site not only uses social networks to enable customers to talk about the brand but also allows customers to create whatever they think the brand represents. The lack of branded content represents a very liberal approach for a consumer product that places all control in the hands of customers.

According to Skittles, all PR is good PR. Yet one person tweeted, “Skittles got stuck in my mouth while I was driving, forced me to slam into orphanage, killing hundreds. I’ll never eat them again.” This type of post might be detrimental to the brand, or it might make people laugh at the absurdity of the claim. With a site that encourages uncontrollable feedback, people are guaranteed to take advantage of the opportunity.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think the Skittles Web site is a success?

Emma Barnett, “Twitter Mistakes: Top 10 Worst ‘Tweets’,” Telegraph.co.uk, May 1, 2009; Karlene Lukovitz, “Marketers Praise Skittles’ Gutsy Site Move,” Marketing Daily, March 2, 2009.