Unusual Suspects: Skittles, Arizona Iced Tea and the Death of Trayvon Martin…

The recent killing of American youth Trayvon Martin has been a flashpoint in race relations across the United States. Briefly: Trayvon (a black guy) was shot and killed in an allegedly unprovoked attack by George Zimmerman (a white guy). If you want more details, you can Google but what’s really surreal is the sudden wave of negative publicity that’s assailing the Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea brands. Yeah, that looks a little unrelated doesn’t it?

Anyway, here’s the catch-up: when Trayvon’s body was inspected, he was found to be carrying nothing more than a packet of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea.

The news spread like wildfire and the community rallied around these brands as key talking points, illustrating the ludicrousness of Zimmerman’s claim that he had acted in self-defence. As these things are wont to do, it took a life of its own, with protestors using the brands as visuals in their actions. For example:

Lets have an #AUCHoodieMarch for Trayvon Martin. We all wear hoodies and pass out skittles and bottles of tea. Anyone interested? (@LaurenRichelle1).


And of course, there’s the Facebook presence too…

Now both Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea have been accused of profiting from this unfortunate incident. Apparently, all these mentions add up to free advertising, earned media if you will, and there are people who aren’t happy about that.

That is disingenuous at best. Nowhere in any form do Skittles or Arizona Iced Tea associate themselves publicly with Trayvon or the incident – other than in sympathy with his loved ones. There are no official Skittle or Arizona Iced Tea sales campaigns on behalf of Trayvon. What has happened is that people have latched onto these brands as symbols of Trayvon’s innocence. Again, this is not a corporate campaign. No-one in a boardroom said, “Sales are down. Let’s have some white guy shoot some black guy in self-defence but wait…here’s the kicker. When they search the dead black kid, guess what? No weapons. Just Skittles. Genius, right!?” This kind of thinking makes no sense. It’s like saying Ford should cough up for all those extra mentions all those years ago when OJ SImpson made a run for it in his Ford Bronco. 

Grow up America. Don’t let this become an issue because if it does, all you’re doing is trivialising the loss of a human life and losing sight of the fact that there are problems that desperately need solving within your communities. Fix that first.

And to Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea, you guys need to move faster to solidify your position in this matter. Stand up, decry the incident loudly and be vocal about the accusations that you guys are actively working to profit from this tragedy. And pray that calm heads prevail.


Possibly The Most Annoying Viral In The World…

What do you get when you mix a lot of WTF with a brand that’s willing to walk away from advertising that is just reading you what is on the pack?

You get this clip from Skittles. 590 000 views in less than 3 days (at the time of writing). I’ve written about Skittles before on this blog and the fantastic work they’re doing to win hearts and minds with their brand.

Anyway, enough from me. Check out the clip. Warning: you will pee in your pants about 25 seconds in…

What an awesome clip. You see, stodgy old brands. This is the cool stuff that happens when you relax your slacks. This guy may be a shill but hell, I’m ok with that. You want odds that people will recall this spot and probably pick up more Skittles in the future? I wouldn’t bet against it.

Well played, Skittles. Well played.

Touch It. Touch It!

When it comes to interactive marketing, some of the best ideas are the ones where you can use the daily behaviour of your market to your advantage. These two examples from Skittles illustrate the point very clearly. All they’re doing is taking what we already do and enhancing the experience  a little.

Insight: popular interactive marketing doesn’t always mean using complicated technology. Sometimes it’s just being accessible on a level the late majority (who are usually the greater part of most markets regardless of brand) can understand.

And it looks like cats dig it too:

Thanks to Chris over at imod for the heads up on that one.