In case you missed it yesterday amidst all of the news about backpacks, bombs and terrorist threats, in the wee hours of yesterday morning, Skittles, and its parent company Mars, slayed a dragon with a single tweet. The brand landed in the crosshairs of controversy when Donald Trump Jr. compared refugees to a bowl of Skittles, with a few of them being poisoned.
This is the new kind of social media crisis that companies face – when a celebrity or prominent person references the brand in some sort of public statement, unbeknownst to the brand. Sometimes it is a good thing, and sometimes it is a not so good thing. And sometimes, even a good thing can become a not-so-good thing, depending on the company’s engagement, and the response of the twitter-verse.
Mars stopped a conversation right in its tracks and made its Skittles brand a hero with its response that refugees are people. Skittles are candy. What can every brand learn from the Skittles, Mars’ response?
- Social media is always on, and you need to be, too – I know you’ve heard it before, and it seems obvious. But notice the time stamp on the Mars response – it was after 1 a.m. Most of the time when brands get caught flat footed, it is because it is after hours. Logic dictates that social conversation gets active when people are being social – outside of work hours. Brands need to be ready. All the time.
- Choose your “spokesperson’ wisely – in a traditional media situation, a PR team would think carefully about the spokesperson – who has the right “voice” and demeanor? Who has the most credibility? Who is available and can get to the CNN studio? The same is true with social channels, with the added benefit that all of your social channels are always on, and always available. In the Skittles case, Mars took the reigns as the parent company. Skittles’ social channels are about candy – fun and whimsical. The Mars channels tackle social issues, sustainability and other aspects of citizenship. It was a great choice to elevate this conversation to the Mars level.
- Resist the urge to market at every opportunity – Every year, there are roundup articles about the worst twitter fails, and they usually involve brands that jump into a conversation in poor taste. Like DiGiornio pizza mistakenly tapping into a hashtag about domestic violence. Or pretty much everything Kenneth Cole does.