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Skittles' brand sentiments plummet after LGBTQ+ packaging backlash: Why consumers took so long to notice

Skittles' brand sentiments plummet after LGBTQ+ packaging backlash: Why consumers took so long to notice

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In May this year, candy brand Skittles, which is owned by Mars, launched a special, new packaging designed to show support towards the LGBTQ+ community in collaboration with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). The packaging featured LGBTQ+ illustrations as well as images of children of different races skateboarding and playing. 

While at that point, the packaging went out without much fanfare, netizens have recently picked up on it and unfortunately, they are not happy, particularly with the phrase "Black Trans Lives Matter" which has had many calling the brand out for trying to be 'woke' unnecessarily. 

Don't miss: SKITTLES partners with Audible and GLAAD to increase visibility of queer community

According to media intelligence firm CARMA, there was a "huge" spike in mentions of Skittles recently, peaking on 12 August when netizens caught wind of the new packaging. The news then continues to pick up traction on social media.

skittles brand sentiments stats by carma

The sentiments of conversations since the packaging picked up traction were recorded at a dismal 39.4% negative with only 7.9% positive sentiments, noting a significant displeasure in the packaging. 

skittles brand sentiments stats by carma 1

CARMA also noted that keywords and themes associated with the Skittles brand largely surround its Pride packaging with words such as 'LGBTQ', 'abuse' and 'activists' coming through. 

skittles brand sentiments stats by carma 2 

A delayed reaction

"We live in a politically correct world where extremism has become mainstream," said Kevin Kan, the chief experience officer at Break Out Consulting Asia when MARKETING-INTERACTIVE reached out to ask why people were so upset many months on. "There are some conservatives who feel that traditional values have been eroded. As Skittles are mainly a product aimed at children, some conservatives may feel that our children are being unduly influenced," he explained. 

He noted that people may have taken a while to react to Skittles but that it may have come to the forefront now that former President Trump is back in the news with conservatives talking excessively about conservative values. 

"When catering to a specific demographic is not working out for the mass, organisations must remember where the majority of their revenues come from," added Kan with regards to how Skittles could mitigate this delayed reaction. 

"If there is consumer backlash, they are telling you something. Continue with the traditional packaging and consider having a more subtle LGBTQ packaging to support that specific demographic," he said. 

Agreeing with him, Vitya Vijayan, the search and social director at M&C Saatchi Performance added that while Skittles as a brand has always been known to support the LGBTQ community, we have to look at the visuals and messaging of the packaging over the years for this one when it comes to understanding why people might be upset. 

"In the past the messaging and visuals have been simple and inclusive with the grayscale packaging and colourful art. However, this time round there's a specific agenda being called out on one of the packaging with 'black trans live matter'," she said, adding:

I think a line may be crossed here that's rubbed people off the wrong way. 

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