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With the memorable assertion that “Only one rainbow matters during Pride,” the Skittles brand plans to introduce packaging that eliminates all of the bright colors that usually appear on its bags and boxes. Noting its existing references to rainbows in its taglines and marketing, the brand believes it is uniquely well positioned to bring attention to LGBTQ concerns and rights, particularly during Pride month.

It is not the first time Skittles has done so; in the past, it introduced completely white packaging and sold the bags in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. This year, the packaging, while still notably less colorful, uses variations of gray tones. The redesigned packages also will be available in the United States throughout the month of June. Furthermore, for every Pride Pack sold, Skittles will donate $1 to the advocacy group GLAAD.

These adjustments reflect some lessons that Skittles learned the last time around. In particular, the pure white packaging it previously used came in for some criticisms, by observers who noted the potential resonance of this design choice with white supremacist and racist groups. By adding gray tones, Skittles avoids any such unintentional signifiers.

Furthermore, by putting its money where its message is and donating to a well-known advocacy group, Skittles hopes to avoid skeptical allegations that the repackaging initiative is a cynical attempt to exploit the connection to Pride. Such critiques of “rainbow washing” mirror complaints about companies that claim to be environmentally conscious, without behaving in ways that respect the environment, also known as greenwashing. In addition to contributing funds, Skittles is encouraging the use of #OneRainbow, to reflect its support for ongoing efforts by GLAAD to ensure and protect the rights and safety of LGBTQ people.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is rainbow washing?
  2. Is this temporary repackaging by Skittles an example of it or not?

Source: Peter Adams, “Skittles Returns to Controversial Colorless Packaging in Honor of LGBTQ Pride,” Marketing Dive, May 21, 2020