Last week, the troublemakers (and I use that as a term of endearment) at POKE started up a little site called Snckrz!, which allowed users to create images featuring words and phrases of their choosing, inside a Snickers logo. The fun little site was spurred by the launch of the official Snickers site, which has been touted as “pretty but obtuse“, and urges its users to “learn to speak snacklish,” and misses the social engagement boat by about three weeks.
Yesterday, Mars sent the NYC-based agency a cease and desist, and the site was shut down at 6pm EST.
A bit of background: Tom Ajello was ECD at Agency.com, and worked on the Mars account during his tenure. According to a spokesperson, the idea the logo generation was originated while he was working on the award-winning Snickers.com, but was never developed. Ajello left Agency.com in 2007 to co-found POKE with Aaron Rutledge and Michael Kantrow.
The site, in its short existence, attracted an average visit time of 5-8 minutes and 80,000 users and, in stark contrast to the much-talked about Skittles debacle, created mostly positive interaction with the Snickers brand, even if it was an unofficial/unauthorized experience. The brandjack was explained by POKE as being created in “good faith to add a bit of utility to Snickers’ offering”.
This could have, theoretically, been integrated quite easily into the brand site (if inter-agency politics and egos didn’t play a factor the decision.*) Instead, in their short-sightedness, Mars decided to shut down the site — something that was generating no revenue except for shits and giggles.
As far as I know (and correct me if I’m wrong) but there was no offer to make use of a concept that was generating really positive conversation; conversation that Mars didn’t pay for, that wasn’t being exploited for profit, that could fall under the category of say, fan fiction. AMC got that very wrong when they first dealt with the Mad Men accounts, and then realized the error of their ways and corrected it, seeing the value of fans running the conversation (and the possible detriment of their brand if they continued to act like corporate overloads.)
There’s nothing wrong with mistakes — we’re all making them — as long as there’s a lesson learned. Mars had a perfect opportunity to turn this into something positive and instead, they’ve alienated a community who had nothing but love for their brand. The fact that the same agency/brand collaboration that bought the internet Skittles.com not two weeks ago, makes this whole situation even more headscratch-worthy. Maybe a little bit of new-fashioned engagement envy? Who knows.
*this is pure speculation on my part. I have no idea about the internal workings or sentiment around this subject.
Heather Ann Snodgrass is Amnesia Razorfish’s Social Media Adviser. You can find her on Twitter here.