Skittles: Give the Rainbow | Disingenuous marketing tactic or LGBT+ ally?

Last year, ad agency adam&eveDDB (represent!) created a campaign for Pride by stripping off their iconic rainbow colour packaging. The “letter” part of the campaign reads:

So this is kind of awkward, but we’re just gonna go ahead and address the rainbow-colored elephant in the room. You have the rainbow … we have the rainbow … and usually that’s just hunky-dory.  But this Pride, only one rainbow deserves to be the centre of attention—yours. And we’re not going to be the ones to steal your rainbow thunder, no siree.

This year, Skittles have brought back the campaign, and it got me questioning the disingenuous nature around using LGBT+ issues for marketing purposes. I’ve blogged about this concern numerous times, and I think it’s important to do one’s research before making any assumptions about a brand’s sincerity. I’m sat at my desk in adam&eveDDB writing this, so putting my bias aside I automatically had negative connotations towards this campaign as many brands use social issues as a marketing ploy. My first thought was “what are they doing to actually support the LGBT community in a physical way? Are they donating? Are they providing support for LGBT youth? Are they supporting families who have lost victims of transphobic violence?”
On a totally creative, marketing, ideas-based note, the campaign idea itself is great – simple, but great. There’s been a weird online backlash claiming that the sweets are racist for promoting “white Pride”. I don’t understand that. The campaign has nothing to do with race.

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Skittles’ aim was to tell Pride that they didn’t want to steal their “rainbow thunder”, but some have said that using the the LGBT rainbow connotations as a campaign is doing exactly that. With these LGBT issues so close to my heart, it’s hard to see past the fact that Skittles (Wrigley UK) are just doing their job – creating a marketing strategy to boost sales and awareness of the brand.
However, the positive side of me wants to say that all publicity is good publicity – if a brand is openly supporting their LGBT employees and consumers, that can’t hurt! In reference to my earlier point regarding actions speaking louder than words, I discovered that for Pride 2017 the limited edition rainbow-less Skittles packets are in association with Tesco, who are donating 2p per packet to Tesco’s LGBT+ charity partners. Skittles aim is to show their support again for Pride, and to celebrate diversity and inclusion. I’m glad this statement is backed up by an actual charitable donation rather than jumping on the back of a very important celebration of human rights.

To conclude, Skittles absolutely are LGBT+ allies, and I’m so happy to see that Tesco are too!

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