Rupert Pupkin lives – but not necessarily on Skittles

Last week, I re-watched Martin Scorcese’s piercingly funny, King of Comedy, where two psychotically-obsessed fans (Robert De Niro and Sandra Bernhard) kidnap a popular late night talk show host (Jerry Lewis). The reason? For Bernhard it’s love. For De Niro (aka Rupert Pupkin), it’s because he wants to appear on the show and become famous.

Pupkin has a modicum talent and spends his days practising in the faux talk show set he built in his basement. He’s not interested in pursuing the paying-your-dues route; playing clubs, honing his act. He wants a quick hit. And (scene spoiler…) when he gets on the show with a passable, if corny act, the tabloids and MSM splash him and his (mis)deed on their covers and he succeeds.

The recent Skittles foray into social media reminded me of the film.

Why? Because both were gutsy moves. Audacious, high concept publicity stunts (or so it seems). I’m not sure what Skittles objectives were when the company turned its home page into a Twitter search, complete with racist slurs and salty language – hey, isn’t candy supposed to be sweet? I’m also not sure why they removed anything on the site that might be remotely fun for kids (who presumably are eating the stuff).

From my perspective, rather than embrace social media (i.e. a two-way dialogue), the company used it to create buzz. However, as the comments – good and bad – were pouring in, did the company say anything? Were they part of the conversation or idle bystanders?

And did the brand increase its equity by actually engaging its customer; reach their target audience; sell more product? I’m not sure they did.

This is by no means scientific, but yesterday afternoon I went to two stores and asked if their Skittles were selling better today. Both looked at me like I needed my head examined.

Now, if this program was conducted by a beer or a condom company trying a new way to reach its customers through an edgy conversation, I think it would have moved the needle.

However, I feel it’s important for every brand, business and individual to understand who they are.

As of yesterday, Skittles removed the Twitter feed from its homepage. I guess we’ll have to watch to see where they take it from here.

The moral of the story: P. T. Barnum (or Rupert Pupkin) lives.

BTW, if you want three more perspectives try: Ian Capstick, Collin Douma and Louise Armstrong.


2 thoughts on “Rupert Pupkin lives – but not necessarily on Skittles

  1. Hi Martin,Kyle Flaherty blogged on Skittles also: agree with you about the blurry objectives of the Skittles social media “campaign”. I mentioned this on Kyle’s blog already, but it struck me that Skittles just opened the floodgates of social media, but neglected to manage the discourse responsibly.I’m curious to hear more from the company.

  2. Revised: I just changed the headline to this post and added ‘Skittles’, so it’s a bit easier to find if anyone comes looking…

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