Objectives First

A while back I wrote a series of posts on communications planning. One of the most popular posts within that series, which still gets a few hundred views per week, was on one on setting communications objectives. As I said at the time:

“As the old saying goes, you need to know where you’re going before you can know how to get there.”

Fast forward to this week, when Skittles re-launched their website with a completely new structure drawn almost entirely from other social media sites:

Naturally the bloggerati took notice, and began passing judgement on the website. The topic quickly shot to the list of top “trending” words on Twitter. While I was bemused that Skittles didn’t seem to be engaging on Twitter despite using the service on its site (Twitter.com/skittles is currently a locked personal account with very little activity), aside from that I tried to refrain from commenting on the effort itself.


Because we don’t know their objectives. All of the people ripping into this site are doing so with no clue what Skittles was trying to achieve.

  • Is it a short-term effort to kick-start buzz and discussion online?
  • Is it an attempt to position a 35 year-old brand as youthful?
  • Is it to simply raise awareness of the product?
  • Is it a genuine attempt to embrace social media?

We just don’t know.

While I’ve fallen into the trap of evaluating communications efforts in the past without knowing all of the information, this time I’m holding off.

To everyone else out there, who seem to know for sure that the site is a huge success/failure, I say:

“Do you have any idea what equals success in this project for the Skittles brand?”

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  • Ian

    I couldn’t agree more Dave, and I’m glad to see people recognizing this. Unless you’re in the planning room with the client, you have no idea what the goal, budget or direction was. Collin made a similar post about it here: http://www.radicaltrust.ca/2009/03/03/skittish-on-skittles/

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  • They seem to have done a few things right. They went to where the people are, they are allowing some type of customer generated content, and they are embracing new, popular media. But you are exactly right Dave, without some kind of engagement it seems more like a stunt than an actual campaign. It will be very interesting to follow this and see if they have a phase two that includes some kind of engagement.

  • Off the top of my head, I’d say that their goals “shoud” have been to drive sales. In that respect, I think this would fail.

    However, after reading your post, I suspect that they just might be trying to crowd-source the next stage of their online marketing strategy. They create discussion, and then watch the intelligence, feedback, opinions, and ideas roll in…

  • It appears they want to create “buzz” and have co-opted every social networking site to do it. It seems haphazard and all over the place, in my opinion. (Their Twitter account is inactive and locked? Not a sign they are open to engagement or discussion, is it?)

    If their objective was to have their brand name splattered across the Internet, then they have achieved it.

    It would be interesting to read their comm. plan, if there is one.

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  • Dave,

    I definitely agree with your sentiments. I also made reference to your Tweets regarding Skittles’ lack of ownership over their own identity on Kyle Flaherty’s blog: http://bit.ly/10UuZp

    Their approach struck me as reckless. In fact, it seemed like an example of a conservative corporation’s fear (read: lack of control) in applying social media brought to fruition.

    Who managed this campaign? Who was responding to negativity and criticism? Were they monitoring the dialogue? The direction and control behind this effort was glaringly absent.

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  • Dave, great point. I did comment on the campaign in a similar way, but mainly because I was sick of all these so called “experts” saying this was a FAIL without having any clue of what the actual goal was or what they were looking for as an end-game. It has become very easy in our industry (marketing, comms, social media) to rip things down and call them a bad example of this or that…rather than examining what the actual goals were and simply examining something on its merits.

    Your post was a great example of how folks should sit back before shooting off that latest Tweet or blog post.


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  • Dave:

    I am so glad you raised this point. I am of the school that says don’t make your audience try and figure out what you’re doing. It seems clear to me that the Skittles team was messing around and jumped into the deep end without any idea of how to swim.

    I just finished interviewing Sandy Carter, VP at IBM, about her new book The New Language of Marketing 2.0. She suggests a six step method for ensuring you get the integrated approach correct — and the first two are analyze and listen, and nail your strategy. Only then do you implement your go to market strategy. (You can listen to a podcast of the interview at http://www.davidkinard.com/radio.htm).

    Skittles obviously thought they’d be different and creative by Twitterizing their homepage. Since that didn’t work, they’ll Facebook it. When that doesn’t work, what’s next? Maybe Skittles should go back to the drawing board and work out a strategy first and not be so frenetic with their brand.

    — David Kinard, PCM

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  • Whatever their “objective” was, it looks like the campaign was a fail after all: http://blogs.zdnet.com/feeds/?p=1204&page=6