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March 29, 2012 4:34 AM   Subscribe


 
I'll make sure my heart goes out to the Skittles brand and its parent companies as soon as it gets back from going out to the Martin family. It might be a while.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:54 AM on March 29, 2012 [27 favorites]


If it was "Red Bull Gives you Wings" this would be a very different story.
posted by three blind mice at 5:01 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]




Great example of a brand hijack in progress.

It's a great demonstration of the transferability of brand identity. Skittles' has a distinct but relatively neutral brand identity. Now the community has appropriated it as a symbol for a polarised social cause. It's a fine choice, for it is relatively bland and ubiquitous, thus it's very easy for the community to ascribe huge meaning to it. Also interesting is the article's mention of 'innocence'. A small feature of the scene -- a child's candy -- now has the potential to represent the whole scene in a sense of 'lost innocence'.

Also the 'threat' of corporate profits. It shows how relatively low power by corporates in the face of social interests.

A while back, the BBC asked a champagne producer what he thought about rappers pour champagne over the backs of dancers in videos. "I think they should drink it". The response from Jay-Z: "The statement is racist and I'm sure his competitors would be happy to have our business."

If the situation were to erupt into a public call for Wrigley to donate the proceeds in favour of the family or something similar, that could be a flash-point of the conflict. If agreed, it shows the community's power over brands -- not a statement reputation managers would like to hear. If denied, it could be the construed as the establishment profiting from the community's loss.

Interesting case study.
posted by nickrussell at 5:03 AM on March 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


WTF, NYT?
posted by Skeptic at 5:07 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had been wondering about this since the start, when nearly every news article mentioned the detail that he had Skittles with him. (Interestingly, many of the same articles just said 'iced tea' and not Arizona Iced Tea, probably because that's just sort of awkward-sounding.) I don't think they could be handling it in a better way, honestly. Some might say they're dissembling/don't want to lose racist customers by getting involved, but I don't think they have an obligation to get involved, and in fact I think anything they could say would only serve to draw attention away from the actual tragedy. I can see them possibly donating money to the Martins post-verdict, though.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:08 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think that it's slightly different from that, nickrussell:

Offence was caused by "MD of Cristal manufacturer Louis Roederer, one Frédéric Rouzaud, during an interview with - of all publications - the Economist. Asked about hip-hop's obsession with Cristal, he said he treated it with "curiosity and serenity" and later, when asked whether he saw the publicity as detrimental to the brand, he said, "That's a good question, but what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

Jay-Z: "It has come to my attention," he said in a statement, "that the managing director of Cristal ... views the hip-hop culture as 'unwelcome attention' [actually a sub-heading from the article]. I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life." In a sly touch he went on to say that, instead, he will be stocking only Dom Perignon and Krug."

I think it's the fairly open dislike of rappers as a class of customers that he viewed as racist, no?
posted by jaduncan at 5:13 AM on March 29, 2012 [18 favorites]


If the situation were to erupt into a public call for Wrigley to donate the proceeds in favour of the family or something similar, that could be a flash-point of the conflict.

There have been public calls for donations — it's in the article.
posted by desjardins at 5:18 AM on March 29, 2012


Both sides of this "story" are a bit overblown, I think. The idea that this news story is going to make any impact on the profits, even this year, of Skittles, is short-sighted at best. The American public will be bombarded with the story of another tragedy in short order, and the footnote of what brand of candy Trayvon Martin bought.

Also, this:

"On social media sites like Twitter, people are suggesting that Wrigley is profiting greatly from the tragedy and should donate money made since Trayvon’s death to the family or causes that would help with racial reconciliation or underprivileged communities."

It's a bit ridiculous, in my book. The shooter wasn't a Skittles representative. The young man wasn't shot because he had Skittles with him. The Wrigley company didn't suddenly start a viral marketing campaign based upon this. The idea that every corporation in America needs to be responsible for anything even tangentially associated with their products on a social level is getting to the point of saturation. Sometimes candy is just candy.
posted by xingcat at 5:23 AM on March 29, 2012 [41 favorites]


I very much hope Zimmerman is prosecuted and that he has to face any legal consequences that might be duly imposed through those proceedings, but the idea that a random food corporation has any obligation with respect to this process, or that they should be boycotted for not doing something about it, is absurd.
posted by John Cohen at 5:34 AM on March 29, 2012 [11 favorites]


@jaduncan From the BBC presentation 50 Cent: Money Machine "They should drink it."

I think it's the fairly open dislike of rappers as a class of customers that he viewed as racist, no?

Fascinated by that interaction. It was a work project and then a grad school commentary topic. There's a few different levels seen. It's really the clash of two worldviews. The champagne producer takes pride in his efforts, and creates something he loves. The rapper pours it over the back of a dancer in symbolic celebration. It's an under-culture appropriating symbols of the mainstream culture for a different message.

In mainstream culture, Champagne is seen as a celebratory beverage -- baby births, ship launches, engagements, weddings. Rappers use it in a very different way -- they use it to say "look what I can waste. I am successful. I can waste what you desire". Which groups are allowed to waste is a powerful element of cultural structure. So the rappers took that symbol, and turned it into their own symbol. In the eyes of tradition, Champagne is not supposed to be wasted in that way. Sexualised. Thrown out as a symbol of success.

So Rouzard was reacting to the new use of Champagne. If Nascar fans started pouring out bottles of Champagne in tribute before races, as a ritual communion, I imagine he would have the same reaction. I don't think it was racist -- Rouzard was more concerned with the reappropriation of the symbol; of the brand losing control over the symbol. (Similar to Burberry being appropriated a symbol of chavs.)

Jay-Z was reacting to this in a personal way, taking it as an affront against the culture. It's a demonstration of the fact that if you can't see the rules of society, that means you are probably a benificiary of those rules. Rouzard doesn't see the rules of consumption and waste in the same lens as Jay-Z. It's an example of two people talking about one topic, but having two conversations. Fascinating.
posted by nickrussell at 5:35 AM on March 29, 2012 [45 favorites]


ALL press is good press, well unless you end up causing cancer or poison children I suppose.
posted by novenator at 5:40 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Can someone please sum the story up for those of blocked by the NYT paywall?
posted by Mitheral at 5:41 AM on March 29, 2012


I can't imagine he would say, "... what can we do? We can't forbid people from buying it. I'm sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business." about NASCAR fans, or more relevantly drivers, somehow.
posted by iotic at 5:43 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Don't know about NASCAR, but F1 usually ends with champagne being poured over bodies.

I'm in the "drink it" school, but I'm not racist. I'll drink champagne even though it's made by the French.
posted by Devonian at 5:44 AM on March 29, 2012


Yeah, that Cristal thing was the perfect publicity misfire. He should have said "We had never thought of it being used that way, I have to tell you, I've bought a bottle and poured it on my wife and that night was fucking on." Just like that, leave the curse word in. Rappers would have tripled their orders.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 AM on March 29, 2012 [22 favorites]


Can someone please sum the story up for those of blocked by the NYT paywall?

Skittles is selling a lot more. Marketing isn't sure what to do. Wrigley says “it inappropriate to get involved or comment further as we would never wish for our actions to be perceived as an attempt of commercial gain following this tragedy.” There are otherwise no comments from them. Some people on twitter/tumblr/etc say Wrigley should donate money, and some people say we should boycott them until they do so. Wrigley will take a hit no matter what it does -- donate to the wrong cause, or not enough, or seem like they are trying to capitalise on it. This entire phenomenon will be short-lived and not have a permanent impact on Skittles.
posted by jeather at 5:50 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rouzard was more concerned with the reappropriation of the symbol; of the brand losing control over the symbol.

That seems awfully over-complex. I think it's more that they're trying to create a product that tastes good; it takes a lot of effort and research and some blind luck with the grapes each year to get a good champagne. And people just wasting it must really suck from that perspective... it's meant to be tasted. Pouring it out like that is, in a way, disrespecting the vintner's product.

I don't think there's really racism involved there at all.... if, as you say, the rap culture is about wasting valuable things, and champagne is about enjoying valuable things, then they can be in conflict without a racial subtext.

If Jay-Z bought Craftsman tools and broke them, and the chief of that division mourned the destruction of good tools, that wouldn't be racist either.
posted by Malor at 5:51 AM on March 29, 2012 [7 favorites]


Thanks leather but what tragedy is everyone talking about?
posted by Mitheral at 5:55 AM on March 29, 2012


One can think that hiphop videos are vulgar without being a racist.
One can disapprove of the rampant sexism of hiphop videos and lyrics without being a racist.
And one can think that Mr. Jay-Z is a greedy twat (although one with great business acumen) without being a racist.

Of course, one can also believe that the managing director of a vastly overpriced champagne brand is hardly qualified to wrinkle his nose at conspicuous consumption.
posted by Skeptic at 5:55 AM on March 29, 2012 [28 favorites]


Oh, and more on-topic: it'd be nice if Wrigley donated, say, half the extra profits from increased sales for the next quarter or two to organizations fighting this kind of nonsense. After that, I imagine Skittles consumption will return to whatever its baseline was.
posted by Malor at 5:56 AM on March 29, 2012


Although, now that I think about it, there's a subtext that maybe the champagne maker doesn't want associated with his brand -- that it tastes so terrible that it's only worth pouring out. I think I'd kind of get that message from seeing a brand of champagne I didn't know being wasted in that way.
posted by Malor at 5:59 AM on March 29, 2012


Mitheral: "Thanks leather but what tragedy is everyone talking about?"

The shooting of Trayvon Martin. He was carrying Skittles when he was shot.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:59 AM on March 29, 2012


Last week, it was the etch-a-sketch. This week, it's skittles. The news will revive our economy, one brand and one week at a time.
posted by crunchland at 6:02 AM on March 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


I think it's the fairly open dislike of rappers as a class of customers that he viewed as racist, no?

Or understanding that applying a "racist" label creates an emotional response and that is what was desired.

Popular rappers are new money. "Worse" yet new money created at the hands of old money AND this class of new money is JUST an entertainer. Old money usually doesn't care much for new money so taking a market position of 'pah, new money' when your 'gonna stick around' customer base is old money makes a certain form of marketing sense.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:07 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: If Jay-Z bought Craftsman tools.

This whole, slightly derailing yet completely relevant topic reminds me of the time that guy was rapping in the kitchen and the thread started delving into the fact that he was using metal utensils on non-stick cookware. Arbitrary but pertinent.

One cannot tell the forest from the trees if one does not first know what the essence of a tree is. So in the same breadth, criticizing Wrigley's for not doing something would first require them to understand what the driving force behind this occurrence is. If we can assume it's racism then how do they best fund projects to deal with that?

However, if Mr. Zimmerman turns out to be simply another bat-shit crazy person, then Skittles pretty much has to change their entire marketing gimmick.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:07 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


This smells of a "Beer Distribution Game" problem, though the context is different, and we do have a few other things in play here.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 6:16 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


“There is this moment where as a brand manager you think, ‘Oh my God, this is bigger than we are,’ ” said Heidi Hovland, a senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard in New York whose client list includes Hyatt Hotels, Barnes & Noble and several food companies.

Hurm. I thought this was a moment where you think, "Holy crap, a kid just got murdered--ANOTHER one! This is bigger than we are--we should partner with some organizations with a track record of addressing issues of racism and community violence!" ...But maybe that's just me.
posted by smirkette at 6:30 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find it funny that she used the phrasing "a candy that was in the wrong place at the wrong time". Probably because that's usually used for people, and its usage on a brand of candy conjures up a dark, dystopian Candyland where its candy citizens fear walking along the faded-pastel streets, and where every movement is governed by pure chance.
posted by cyberscythe at 6:43 AM on March 29, 2012 [14 favorites]


And people just wasting it must really suck from that perspective... it's meant to be tasted. Pouring it out like that is, in a way, disrespecting the vintner's product.

I may be overly cynical, but my guess is his primary concern is that a larger number of discreetly rich white guys will buy less of it to drink if a smaller number of very publicly rich black guys buys more of it to pour on the bodies of hot dancers.
posted by Dr Dracator at 6:46 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Isn't wasting champagne kind of a universal symbol of success? Here's what rich people do at the end of a race, and it's not just the winner who gets to do it.
posted by pyrex at 6:52 AM on March 29, 2012 [6 favorites]


"Like... Flavor-Aid, the powdered drink that the cult leader Jim Jones laced with cyanide to kill more than 900 people in Guyana that same year — Skittles has now entered the elite world of food products that have become symbols through no fault of their own."

Flavor-Aid?
posted by fairmettle at 6:53 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Corporate martyr complex much?
posted by obscurator at 6:54 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


a dark, dystopian Candyland where its candy citizens fear walking along the faded-pastel streets, and where every movement is governed by pure chance.

The 2nd amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the right of the citizen to whatever candy they want without fear of being connected to human crimes.

Candy doesn't kill people, people kill people.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:58 AM on March 29, 2012


I was ready to blame the Economist for fomenting a serious cultural crisis here, but it occurs to me that the pompous Frenchman and the egotistical rapper are an ideal pairing for a mismatched cop movie. "Jay-Z and Rouzard"

"Rouzard! You're off the case! Turn in your gun and your badge!"
"OK: I'm gonna regret this but you've got 24 hours. No more!"
posted by Segundus at 7:01 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


a dark, dystopian Candyland where its candy citizens fear walking along the faded-pastel streets, and where every movement is governed by pure chance.

I would read this book.

The Gingerbread People will rise up against the tyrranical Queen Frostine, King Kandy and Princess Lolly!
posted by jeather at 7:03 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: a dark, dystopian Candyland where its candy citizens fear walking along the faded-pastel streets, and where every movement is governed by pure chance.
posted by Renoroc at 7:13 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


a dark, dystopian Candyland where its candy citizens fear walking along the faded-pastel streets, and where every movement is governed by pure chance.

Major studio tentpole, summer 2017. YHIHF.
posted by saturday_morning at 7:18 AM on March 29, 2012


If Nascar fans started pouring out bottles of Champagne in tribute before races, as a ritual communion, I imagine he would have the same reaction.

And yet they do, and he apparently does not.

As for Skittles, of course I would love to see them liquidate their assets and fold all the money into promoting social justice, but then, I would like to see capitalism in toto pull up its tent stakes and move on. To expect the company to funnel additional profits--as if there were any way to determine what revenue could be ascribed to sales related to this murder anyway--in any direction is absurd.

Any fears about long-term effect on the brand should be quelled by the fact that no one refers to a cult-like blind faith as "drinking the Flavor-Aid."
posted by looli at 7:20 AM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


Dr Dracator: I may be overly cynical, but my guess is his primary concern is that a larger number of discreetly rich white guys will buy less of it to drink if a smaller number of very publicly rich black guys buys more of it to pour on the bodies of hot dancers.

Yeah, I think maybe I over-analyzed it too. Conspicuous consumption is all about image, and rich white guys don't want to project the image of being rappers.

I just had my head in the wrong space -- I was thinking from the view of a craftsman, not a marketer, when wine is about 90% marketing.

I retract the comment completely. He's probably racist as hell, or at least trying to satisfy customers who are.
posted by Malor at 7:21 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


So Wrigley's should donate money because their sales is up due to their coincidental and accidental connection to a shooting/killing/murder/self-defense whatever is the truth?

What about those who are deliberately seeking profit from the young man's senseless and tragic death? What about Jessie and Al? What about all those cashing in on hoodie sales?

What about all the politicians who are seeking out political currency (and selling hoodies) ?



Seems there are a lot more people than Skittles who should be looking at sharing some of their profit.
posted by 2manyusernames at 7:23 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember when Marshawn Lynch (NFL player) was eating Skittles?
"When he ran in for a touchdown against the Eagles in early December and then celebrated by eating the candy while the NFL Network broadcasted him doing so, Wrigley responded by offering Lynch a 24-month Skittles supply and a customized Skittles dispenser for his locker room."
I'm sure Wrigley will end up doing the right thing. Right now there is still a lot of uncertainty with the case, and for Wrigley, they understandably need to wait until it's clear that actions they take will be reasonably assured of having the positive consequences they intend.

as if there were any way to determine what revenue could be ascribed to sales related to this murder anyway

Oh they certainly can. Have you been in meetings at major corporations? They most certainly can. They have previous sales reports, future projections of sales, campaign impact metrics and detailed itemizations of what affects product movement, from supply chain problems to competitors actions. They most certainly can tell what amount of recent sales can be attributed to this.

I think they will do the right thing though, in the end. I think they took a good stance. By the way "some people on twitter are saying" is not really a good way for reporters to make it seem like that is a force a business should listen to. At least follow through and get names and full quotes.
posted by cashman at 7:35 AM on March 29, 2012


What about somebody who refers to important African American civil rights leaders as "Jessie and Al"?

Well, they sound something like this.
posted by MartinWisse at 7:37 AM on March 29, 2012


@jaduncan From the BBC presentation 50 Cent: Money Machine "They should drink it."

...the CEO did a similar rappers have no taste thing twice? Either he's a complete idiot or it played well in focus groups somewhere, I guess (or both).
posted by jaduncan at 7:43 AM on March 29, 2012


Exactly how do you drink the champagne after using it to launch a ship?
posted by shakespeherian at 7:46 AM on March 29, 2012


From the article:
For its part, Wrigley has chosen to make only a subdued statement about its product, saying the company is deeply saddened, respects the family’s privacy and feels “it inappropriate to get involved or comment further as we would never wish for our actions to be perceived as an attempt of commercial gain following this tragedy.”

A spokeswoman, Jennifer Jackson Luth, would not comment on the impact of Skittles’s sudden popularity on profits.
Good for them. That's the best way to handle it.

If people want to use the company's product as a symbol, then fine. The company should do their best not to capitalize on it.
posted by zarq at 7:52 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]




The Gingerbread People will rise up against the tyrranical Queen Frostine, King Kandy and Princess Lolly!

As long as they're prepared for the consequences - the dessert despot can be ruthless.
posted by zamboni at 8:00 AM on March 29, 2012


Can someone please sum the story up for those of blocked by the NYT paywall?

Just delete everything after "html" in the link, like so. There, no paywall.
posted by John Cohen at 8:10 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


the dessert despot can be ruthless.

The Gingerbread Hero and Heroine, after making it through Peppermint Forest, Lollipop Woods and the deadly Rainbow Trail, got stuck in the Molasses Swamp with the magical Gooey Gumdrop. Alas! Lord Licorice and Plumpy have betrayed them and imprisoned Grandma Nutt!
posted by jeather at 8:36 AM on March 29, 2012


Perhaps Wrigley can sue Zimmerman for second degree Brand Defamation.

Justice will be served!

In a candy bowl
posted by mazola at 8:40 AM on March 29, 2012


Hurm. I thought this was a moment where you think, "Holy crap, a kid just got murdered--ANOTHER one! This is bigger than we are--we should partner with some organizations with a track record of addressing issues of racism and community violence!" ...But maybe that's just me.

I have no trouble believing that it is both. I think she can be shocked at the senseless murder of a child and also flummoxed by the surreal way that the circumstances of the murder somehow roped in her job as brand manager for a candy company. Saying, "oh my god, this is bigger than we are," seems to speak pretty clearly that this is a tragedy that Skittles shouldn't really be involved with, and is, you know, bigger than that.

As for the Cristal thing, I think the guy was probably racist, but I'm guessing it was more damage control on the Burberry effect than anything else. NASCAR doesn't really play in Britain, as far as I know. But hip-hop makes its way over. It might just be a matter of what the BBC was asking him about. Or he might just be racist, what the hell do I know?
posted by Navelgazer at 8:46 AM on March 29, 2012


If Nascar fans started pouring out bottles of Champagne in tribute before races, as a ritual communion, I imagine he would have the same reaction. And yet they do, and he apparently does not.

I could not spot the cristal - but did note one of 'em was Korbel. From their website: 2012 F. Korbel & Bros., Guerneville, Sonoma County, CA. Producers of fine California méthode champenoise champagnes for 129 years. KORBEL

As I understand - Champagne is from one spot in France. How is Korbel "champagne" if the French location is a key part of the definition?

Now - to come up with this position that some talking head has some opinion - do you have an interchange about NASCAR and his position about it? Or is this more dog-whistl'n?

(And Cristal or whatever it is may not be Champagne.)
posted by rough ashlar at 8:46 AM on March 29, 2012


I'm curious why people think that Wrigley should donate anything. They(Wrigley) didn't shoot Martin. this seems like a very misplaced sense of entitlement on the people calling for donations.
posted by Dr. Twist at 8:47 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think the guy was probably racist

Odds are he's classist. If the poor happen to be of a different "race" - well, they are still poor and therefore deserve scorn/treatment as just help.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:49 AM on March 29, 2012


“You get trained if someone dies eating your product, but I don’t think anyone has been through training for something like this,” said Beth Gallant, a marketing professor at Lehigh University who has worked as a brand manager for Nabisco, Kraft, Pfizer and Crayola.

Geez what marketing class is this covered in?
posted by Big_B at 9:00 AM on March 29, 2012


I read the article under the impression that it's about the shooting of Trale Lewous. That would be a catastrophe for the Skittells marketing team.
posted by Nomyte at 9:03 AM on March 29, 2012


I nearly forgot Skittles existed until this recent to-do. I haven't bought any yet but I'm sure others have. Sales of completely unnecessary products like Skittles turn on hairpins like these.
posted by michaelh at 9:11 AM on March 29, 2012


Well - I have my 2012 presidential platform, and one of the planks is Rainbow Helicopters... TASTE THE RAINBOW!
posted by symbioid at 9:14 AM on March 29, 2012


Today, I learned that criticizing hip-hop culture is apparently racist. WTF?
posted by brokkr at 9:18 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure how Wrigley's thinks about Skittles branding after seeing the infamous "honeymoon" commercial (NSFW)
posted by briank at 9:29 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Taste the racial injustice.





I SAID, TASTE IT.
posted by clvrmnky at 9:30 AM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


As I understand - Champagne is from one spot in France. How is Korbel "champagne" if the French location is a key part of the definition?

There are conflicting opinions about this. In Europe, "champagne" is a protected geographical indication, but the US doesn't recognise it.

If the poor happen to be of a different "race" - well, they are still poor and therefore deserve scorn/treatment as just help.

I could call 50 Cent or Jay-Z many things, but "poor" is certainly not one of them (except perhaps in taste).
posted by Skeptic at 9:32 AM on March 29, 2012


"You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff..." -- Lee Atwater
posted by symbioid at 9:33 AM on March 29, 2012


If Jay-Z bought Craftsman tools and broke them, and the chief of that division mourned the destruction of good tools, that wouldn't be racist either.

"Man said if we wanna shoot nails, this here's the Cadillac. He mean Lexus, but he ain't know it."
posted by teekat at 9:37 AM on March 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


If Nascar fans started pouring out bottles of Champagne in tribute before races, as a ritual communion, I imagine he would have the same reaction.

And yet they do, and he apparently does not.

He might if NASCAR fans started making a big deal out of always using Cristal for such celebrations.
posted by straight at 9:51 AM on March 29, 2012


Skittles were originally British? I thought they were quintessentially American. Certainly Skittles at not part of the Pantheon of immortal British sweets
posted by Bwithh at 9:55 AM on March 29, 2012


originally British

Skittles and British smiles: an advertising match made in the lower rungs of Hell.

NASCAR

We're talking about the Champagne of beers*, right?
posted by obscurator at 10:01 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


They have previous sales reports, future projections of sales, campaign impact metrics and detailed itemizations of what affects product movement, from supply chain problems to competitors actions. They most certainly can tell what amount of recent sales can be attributed to this.

I understand your point, but perhaps what is less clear is what the "this" is that the sales can be attributed to. Does it count as a Trayvon Martin sale if I buy a bag because I keep hearing Skittles Skittles Skittles everywhere and develop a craving unrelated to the social justice angle? Do they get to claim a loss if people decide that their failure to make a donation to a legal defense fund leads to a boycott? If those two things cancel each other out on a balance sheet, does that mean nothing happened?

Certainly they can track sales, but attributing them to any event is far from scientific. Marketing is way more voodoo than science.
posted by looli at 10:17 AM on March 29, 2012


They are smart to stay out of it. If they donate, then the donation won't be enough or it will be to the wrong charity. There's no winning, so it's best not to play.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:41 AM on March 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


the infamous "honeymoon" commercial -- wow. Not sure that really qualifies as parody.
posted by crunchland at 10:50 AM on March 29, 2012



As long as they're prepared for the consequences - the dessert despot can be ruthless.
posted by zamboni at 8:00 AM on March 29 [+] [!]



There are NEW comics on pbf!
Sound the alarm! Rejoice fervently!
(sorry off topic, but critical.)
posted by oblio_one at 11:26 AM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


So we're back to the days of Pepsi being "Nigger Coke?"
posted by stratastar at 12:45 PM on March 29, 2012


Seriously, they write an article whose subtext is race relations, marketing, and the effects of a racial homicide; and the only reference to race is Spelman a HBC. I don't even...
posted by stratastar at 12:49 PM on March 29, 2012


This is all a bit off topic, but Skittles make the best adverts. Fairmettle already posted the King Midas Ad, but the rapping grandmother ad cracks me up every time I see it.
posted by zoo at 12:55 PM on March 29, 2012


Metafilter: Two people talking about one topic, but having two conversations

Though that might be lowballing it.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:57 PM on March 29, 2012


Forty Acres and a bag of Skittles!

Yeah, that just doesn't sell it, you know?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:58 PM on March 29, 2012


Certainly they can track sales, but attributing them to any event is far from scientific. Marketing is way more voodoo than science.

I'm sure they will come up with a reasonable figure and then do something accordingly, once all is said and done. And if they do, I doubt anybody will demand to see the inputs and want to do an audit. Half of this is being responsive to the community. And as shown with the Marshawn example, they clearly take note of increased attention to their product. If in the end it makes sense, I'm guessing they will come through with some meaningful gesture that will be well received by the community.
posted by cashman at 1:11 PM on March 29, 2012


Geez what marketing class is this covered in?

The one that has a whole semester on the topic "no publicity is bad publicity".

As a reminder - publicity is "Public Relations" and "Public Relations" used to be called Propaganda.
posted by rough ashlar at 1:57 PM on March 29, 2012


Geez what marketing class is this covered in?

Crisis communications.
posted by zarq at 2:12 PM on March 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Flavor-Aid?

The 'Kool-Aid' at Jonestown might have been Flavor-Aid or both Flavor-Aid and Kool-Aid.


(Un-)dash that:

"This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: March 29, 2012


An earlier version of this article rendered incorrectly the name of the powdered drink that the cult leader Jim Jones laced with cyanide to kill more than 900 people in Guyana in 1978. It is Flavor Aid, not Flavor-Aid."
posted by progosk at 2:59 PM on March 29, 2012


I had been wondering about this since the start, when nearly every news article mentioned the detail that he had Skittles with him. (Interestingly, many of the same articles just said 'iced tea' and not Arizona Iced Tea, probably because that's just sort of awkward-sounding.) I don't think they could be handling it in a better way, honestly. Some might say they're dissembling/don't want to lose racist customers by getting involved, but I don't think they have an obligation to get involved, and in fact I think anything they could say would only serve to draw attention away from the actual tragedy. I can see them possibly donating money to the Martins post-verdict, though.

Reminds me of two things:

1) The lack of mention of Arizona Iced Tea in most media attention to me seems similar to how Apple is singled out about factory conditions in China. If your electronic device is made in China it is made by Foxconn or one of its competitors, it is made in similar (or worse) conditions. But because of the press' love/hate relationship with all things Apple, it seems HP, Dell, et al get a pass. I think the same thing happens with Skittles, Skittles is a stronger and more recognizable brand than AZ Iced Tea and so it gets the attention. Had Martin been carrying a Coke and Skittles, the news articles would probably mention the Coke and a bag of candy.

2) I remember during the whole Arizona SB 1070 dustup and people were calling for boycotts of all things AZ, the Arizona Iced Tea people had to rush out a statement to remind everyone that Arizona Iced Tea is a New York company and that it has nothing to do with the state of Arizona. It seems it was fine to trade on the name of the Grand Canyon State until it became an embarrassment.

To me the brands aren't important. Perhaps stating it was a bag of Skittles was initially reported to give context to the fact that candy couldn't be mistaken for a weapon. But beyond that, it is really important. That people bought Skittles as a form of protest puts the company in an awkward position in that it didn't ask for this attention. As a former communications person, I'd stick with the script of not wanted to appear to be commercializing this. It would be one thing if they planted peole or suggested in social media that buying a bag of Skittles would be a great way to show how you feel. But they're not doing that to my knowledge. But a bag of Skittles is an inexpensive way for people to show their support of Martin. Should the increased sales of hoodies (at least among politicians it seems they're brand new) also be held to scrutiny and demand for money?
posted by birdherder at 4:44 PM on March 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I find it funny that she used the phrasing "a candy that was in the wrong place at the wrong time". Probably because that's usually used for people, and its usage on a brand of candy conjures up a dark, dystopian Candyland where its candy citizens fear walking along the faded-pastel streets, and where every movement is governed by pure chance."

I had that read on it too. Both in the funny dark sense and in a not-so-funny real sense.

In my mind though, the 'candy' was a metonymic substitute for the brand, which is in turn a proxy for the people behind the brand — who are, not perhaps so accidentally, the ones making the "wrong place, wrong time" comment. So then, is the comment an attempt at relatedness and compassion? self-promotion and attention-seeking? hubris? humbleness? brand positioning? some combination of all of these? or something else entirely?

Which all oddly reminds me of George Orwell's short story, Shooting an Elephant, where he tells of being an authority figure who, through a strange set of circumstances, is thrust into a spotlight and compelled to act at the mercy of a crowd urging him to do something he wouldn't otherwise need to be concerned with. It ultimately ends with self-preservation, and a wonder if any one person among the crowd even caught that.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:52 PM on March 29, 2012


"Perhaps stating it was a bag of Skittles was initially reported to give context to the fact that candy couldn't be mistaken for a weapon."

You bring up a good point, birdherder...there is something even more there. I think that because it is Skittles and not a weapon is precisely why it has gotten reappropriated in this way.

Candy indexes youth, innocence, treats, happiness and small things (incl. the stores and shelves where it's found, the moments spent buying/carrying/eating it, the low cost). Skittles in particular is pretty darned whimsy, as candy goes. It's these bursty, tangy, small little bright colored bits. The slogan is "Taste the Rainbow", which is beyond innocent, in pretty corny territory actually. Skittles aren't even terribly chewy or cumbersome (unlike, say, a Now & Later or Jolly Rancher, or even Starbursts which have all this silly wrapping). Skittles are simple. That's part of why they're so popular. Basically, everything about Skittles reinforces the idea of 'candy', and all that candy represents.

It's pretty much the opposite of a weapon, which incidentally indexes violence, crime, death, blood, darkness, etc.

It's no surprise to me then that a community faced with such a tragedy rallies around this symbol. It's a simple way of making a statement. A choice, in a sense. A way to express the community values, to align with one set of ideals and reject the senseless violence associated with the other set.

It simply doesn't work with Arizona ice tea. Or even Coke, which is overwrought with its massive corporate persona.

Just to be perfectly clear here, I am not suggesting Skittles are a symbol of Trayvon Martin, but rather pointing out the way people are associating/identifying the candy with the tragedy, and why perhaps people feel it makes sense to do so.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:22 PM on March 29, 2012 [5 favorites]


The idea that every corporation in America needs to be responsible for anything even tangentially associated with their products on a social level is getting to the point of saturation

I agree, however, I do think this is an inevitable product (ha) of encouraging your customers to subsume your brand as part of their identities. When you stop wearing shoes and start wearing Nikes - and when you're encouraging Nikes to not merely be footwear, not merely be a cosign but actually be a certain set of qualities, like freedom, strength, creativity, etc - it's a foregone conclusion.

Iamkimian is right on the money about the signifier aspects of Skittles and why it probably wouldn't have come up if Travyon had a more abstruse brand of confectionary.
posted by smoke at 6:52 PM on March 29, 2012


John Cohen writes "Just delete everything after 'html' in the link, like so. There, no paywall."

Still pay walled for me.
posted by Mitheral at 7:37 PM on March 29, 2012


birdherder: kittles is a stronger and more recognizable brand than AZ Iced Tea and so it gets the attention.

I think it's more that Arizona Iced Tea is long. It's awkward. Adding in Arizona makes it complex, without really conveying any additional information. Further, it looks almost like paid product placement.

Skittles, on the other hand, is the shortest way to describe the candy. They could have said "candy and ice tea", but "Skittles and iced tea" is more descriptive, without using any more words. I bet that's why they went that way.

I doubt very much it was a conscious decision on the part of the reporters. Well, dropping Arizona might have been conscious, but I very strongly doubt they put any thought into 'Skittles' versus 'candy'.
posted by Malor at 9:45 AM on March 30, 2012


Oh, and as I read further, I think iamkimiam is absolutely right about why the black community grabbed onto the Skittles brand. I think she nailed it. But I very strongly doubt that the original reporters were thinking much about any of that. 'Skittles' is simply a better word than 'candy'; the imagery is more exact, with no additional word count.
posted by Malor at 9:49 AM on March 30, 2012


From the article: "The candy has been... sent to the Sanford Police Department to protest the lack of an arrest in the case."

Wait, let me make sure I have this right:
  • Sanford Police Department fails to arrest Trayvon Martin's killer
  • Sanford Police Department gets free candy
Worst. Protest. Ever.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:06 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


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