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As a proponent of social media as an effective tool in marketing communications, I often yammer on and on to whoever will listen about how, if done right, it can turn fans of a product into downright brand evangelists – those who take great pride in expounding on their love for a product, company, organization or brand.

Think of it like word-of-mouth marketing…times a million.

Anyhow, to me, it seems that effective brand engagement in the social space is starting to do something more – turning brand evangelists into brand apologists!

Case in point – little ‘ole me.

I love Skittles.

However, I love their social media presence even more. (Me and about 21.5 million others at last count.)

Given my adoration, when a blog by Spin Sucks popped up in my email titled “PR Crisis for Skittles In Wake of Controversial Teen Shooting,” I found myself sitting alone in my office saying out loud, “Hey, you leave my rainbow of fruit flavor alone!” without even seeing what the crisis was about.

While I did eventually click on the link to the blog, which focused on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and Skittles’ resulting sales from it, I was surprised at my fervent defense of the glorified sugar pills without looking at a single fact.

So, I ask you, has social media turned me from a brand evangelist into a brand apologist? Or is being a brand apologist part in parcel of being evangelical about something in the first place?

Alison Bailin
Alison Bailin
Senior Account Executive Alison has a lot to say…about pretty much everything...all the time. From the current state of public relations to the social media impact on Shark Week to crisis communications in the sports world, Alison’s blogs are focused on “amusing through her PR musings,” and then some. Check out Alison's full bio


  1. Alison Bailin says:

    Also, while I in NO WAY condone violence toward women, I felt a little defensive when Belvedere Vodka was getting lambasted in the media for their dumb new ads. But, of course, that is because I am obsessed with Chelsea Handler -and she can’t go five minutes without talking about the libation.

  2. Stephanie Lough says:

    Belvedere is one thing – although their demographic is the Chelsea Handler loving type, it was obviously inappropriate and offensive to some. I do agree many take the PC thing too far – there was a recent chapstick ad pulled from their Facebook page that depicted a girl looking for her chapstick behind a couch, posing as one would when looking behind a couch. http://www.adweek.com/files/adfreak/AdFreak%20new/ChapStick.jpg It was called provocative, but I wonder if it would be considered provocative if the girl didn’t have a model figure. Really, it’s not even that flattering of an angle!

    In the case of skittles, it was a matter of a brand being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Social media is a great tool for a company to apologize to their customers IF it is their place to apologize. Even comments on issues that do not directly related to the company can do more harm than good (Kenneth Cole/Egypt tweet).

    My comment on another blog asking if Skittles (and Arizona Ice Tea) should owe anything for this “free publicity” (http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/Does_Skittles_owe_anybody_anything_for_dubious_pub_11236.aspx )

    The only affect I see either of these brands having on the issue is intensifying the innocence (in terms of being youthful and harmless) of the victim. If anything, they should announce public condolences, but aside from being “evidence”, they have no place in this now racially charged debate and should absolutely NOT take a side or voice opinion on the matter. Worse would be either brand using the situation to benefit from, regardless of the “extra publicity”, which I do not see them doing. (However I have paid little attention to the brands’ reactions and more to the humanitarian issues.)

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