Skittles and Trump: The fallout of unintended marketing

by | Sep 22, 2016 | Analysis, Media Monitoring, Politics and Government - US

Donald Trump has a son named Donald Trump Jr. And on September 19, at 4:41 p.m., Junior let rip with a tweet comparing Syrian refugees to poisonous Skittles.

Monday’s tweet was yet another in a long, long list of mad and misinformed missives that have come to define this most unprecedented of presidential campaigns.

Forget for a moment that the photo itself was taken by a refugee and overlook the flimsy logic. What this tweet has accomplished is it has, for better or worse, linked Skittles with Trump’s presidential experiment.

In an effort to quickly break that bond, Wrigley, the parent company of Skittles, released a statement: “Skittles are candy; refugees are people. It’s an inappropriate analogy. We respectfully refrain from further comment, as that could be misinterpreted as marketing.”

But marketing is what they got. Because, while Wrigley wasn’t willing to perpetuate the association, the global media was: in the 48 hours following the posting of the tweet, more than 10,000 print and online articles were published containing the terms “Skittles” and “Trump”, reaching an estimated readership of more than four billion.


The media will eventually move on to other stories. But this has shown us that when companies become attached to famous (or infamous) people, whether on purpose or not, that association has the ability to grow and grow and spiral out of control — along with providing more exposure than most PR or advertising campaigns put together.

Wrigley did the right thing by distancing itself from this political firebomb. And while the state of its relationship was always made clear, the fact remains that “Skittles” has appeared in more than 10K articles alongside Trump’s name. This is the power of the media.


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Marcus Kaulback
Marcus is a content creator and marketer with a focus on branding and communications.


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