The case of Skittles and how to react with real-time marketing

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Every brand would love to see its hashtag trending on social media, but what if it’s for the least expected reason? Should you use real-time marketing to react?

There was an interesting story on social media involving Donald Trump Jr. and a tweet that created an analogy between Syrian refugees and a bowl of Skittles. This was enough for Twitter users to fuel the discussion, create memes, send their responses, and eventually make #Skittles a trending topic.

It must have been a surprise for the brand to see their hashtag trending, especially for the specific reason.

Although users kept discussing the topic, the company only responded many hours later through a press release, which mentioned that they prefer to “refrain from further comment, as that could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

This was a clever way to avoid being involved in an immediate reaction that could be interpreted as an attempt to capitalise on an unexpected situation, and most importantly, it kept the brand away form any association with the tweet and its perspective.

Twitter users loved Skittles’ response and they decided to use the hashtag #SkittlesWelcome to promote the opposite angle from the original tweet, supporting the Syrian refugees and mocking Donald Trump and his son in a creative way.

Skittles won a positive sentiment towards the brand in a situation that could have turned out badly with just one wrong reply, and it raises the question again whether a brand should jump right ahead on real-time marketing opportunities.

How should a brand react in real-time marketing?

Real-time marketing can be a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s creativity and relevance in an immediate response.

It has actually led to impressive campaigns, with Oreo’s presence during Super Bowl being among the most popular ones.

However, a brand should also be aware of the consequences of an immediate reply, and whether it entails any dangers for its branding.

Moreover, there should be an “emergency plan” set that will prepare marketers in case things turn out in the wrong way.

If a brand gets popular for any possible reason, is it a good idea not to reply at all? Users are impatient and they expect an answer from a brand that gets involved in a trending topic, but this doesn’t mean that the urge should beat common sense, especially if it’s a controversial topic.

Thus, it may be a good idea to wait until you have the right response to jump on the conversation.

Chasing real-time opportunities

Real-time marketing can create a momentum for a brand, whether it started from a good or bad reason. It can be tempting to be part of a trending topic and many brands try hard to be heard during popular events.

The idea of chasing ephemeral popularity can be addictive, but is it really effective for your brand? 

Could Skittles seize the moment and promote its brand, or even stay away from the association still in a more “commercialised” way? What would be the real benefit of it and most importantly, what would the community think of it?

It’s not always easy to use your common sense and wait during a real-time opportunity, but it may sometimes lead to even better results. 

Real-time marketing is not the enemy and it’s highly suggested your brand tries it out in the right occasion, but you still need to consider all the implications and be prepared for all the types of reactions.

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