Representing Your Brand in a Crisis: A Lesson from Skittles (Blog)

Managing a brand’s online presence is hard. I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again many more times. We hear about social media fails all the time and I’ve previously highlighted what it takes to be a mature social media manager. This week, Wrigley Americas is illustrating the right way to manage your brand online, especially in a crisis.

Let’s backtrack to Monday evening. Donald Trump Jr., son of the Republican presidential candidate tweeted the following:

Trump Jr Skittles Tweet

To no one’s surprise, reaction to the tweet was fast and furious. Within hours, Skittles was trending around the globe.

Some of the best responses to Trump Jr.’s tweet

Some people wondered how Skittle’s PR and Communications team would handle the situation

Skittles Response was Perfect

Many people (myself included) thought the team at Skittles would be at a loss over how best to deal with the unwanted association between their brand and the Trumps’ anti-refugee stance. Then, Denise Young, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Skittles’ parent Wrigley Americas, released the following statement:

“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people. We don’t feel it’s an appropriate analogy. We will respectfully refrain from further commentary as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

The response from Wrigley Americas has been met with the Internet’s version of a round of applause

Why is the Skittles response so impressive?

The situation – having your brand associated with a politician and a hot-button issue – is really a worst case scenario. Trump Jr.’s tweet came out of nowhere and because of his last name, it drew immediate attention. Skittles (by way of their parent company) had to decide (quickly) how to respond.

I’ve worked with (and for) several brands. In this situation, some of them would have ignored the tweet, choosing silence over getting involved. Some brands still choose to believe that not engaging is the best option when it comes to online interaction, especially interaction during a crisis.

Other brands may have attempted to reply with humour, but we’ve seen how that can backfire. Denise Young from Wrigley Americas is either a seasoned PR professional or she has access to some great representation.

The response from Wrigley Americas was perfect. It acknowledged the situation and made it clear that they were not going to allow their brand to be used for the political commentary. The terse tone of the message also made it quite clear that they were done with the situation.

It only took four sentences for Skittles to distance their brand from Trump Jr.’s sensational tweet. It’s a lesson in brand management and PR that many other organizations can learn from.

Trump Jr. was not as impressed with Skittles as I was

I can’t end this post without sharing one fun fact. The Skittles image that Trump Jr. used was taken by David Kittos, a former refugee. Trump Jr. neither asked for permission to use the photo nor did he acknowledge where he sourced it. He also neglected to offer Kittos any compensation for its use.

I guess not all Skittles in the bowl are bad.

Photo Courtesy of Christina