skittles no rainbow

Skittles’ Rainbow-less Social Campaign Proved Tasteless. Here’s How Social Media Marketers Can Avoid Pride-Washed Content.

By: Sophie Maerowitz

June 1, 2020

On May 20, Skittles pledged to honor LGBTQ Pride Month by removing the rainbow colors from its signature product. “Only one rainbow matters during pride,” greyscale candy wrappers read; individual candies will temporarily be leeched of color. Skittles will donate $1 per pack of its all-white Skittles to LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD, up to $100,000. The campaign is a revamped version of previous “one rainbow” efforts from previous years, which received mixed reviews.

The message of LGBTQ solidarity is unquestionably important during a pandemic, as “many LGBTQ+ people will be unable to gather at large Pride events,” per a statement from GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. However, given nationwide attention on police brutality and racial inequality, Skittles and other companies that had planned rainbow-oriented Pride campaigns in early June risk appearing tone deaf. The Promoted campaign hashtag #OneRainbow was trending on Twitter over the weekend; many users were unimpressed by the timing.

One option Skittles might consider? Hitting the social media kill switch for the time being. Temeka Easter Rice, Sallie Mae’s director of brand engagement, told PRNEWS that having a kill switch in place should be a part of any social media communications plan. In addition, have representatives from all of the groups that matter to your business weigh in on the organization’s crisis plan. Making sure everyone has a seat at the table “saves time and allows you to gather feedback from key stakeholders before a crisis,” says Easter Rice.

Justin Buchbinder, social media director at global integrated firm Finn Partners says that the most important move right now is simply to listen. Based on the tone and subject matter of online discussion, “look back over your scheduled posts and campaigns and ask yourself: ‘Is this right, right now?’ If your gut tells you no, hit the pause button.” This content can still be used down the line.

In the meantime, Buchbinder advises organizations that want to send a message of solidarity in the current climate make a meaningful donation to a charity or nonprofit, and highlight minority voices.

On the broader question of Pride marketing, Pride-washing, and advantageous marketing writ large, Buchbinder stresses to “make sure that your heart is in the right place. Slapping a rainbow on a product rings hollow and phony.” He advises spotlighting the voices of the LGBTQ people within your organization, telling their stories.


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As we start Pride month we must remember that Pride was birthed out of a riot led by trans women of color. Marsha fought for liberation. We honor her today (and every day ). 🖤 🖼 x @villanaart

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Above all else, “make sure that there is meaning behind your marketing. If that core essence is lacking, your plans will backfire and you will surely hear it from those who come upon it,” Buchbinder adds.

For social marketers unsure how to make a statement around recent events, writer and business analyst Josh Bernoff, the man behind the No Bullshit blog, has you covered. Bernoff wrote a recent article on communications hits and misses around nationwide protests and has offered to provide direct feedback on select inquiries.

Below are a few organizations marketers can consider donating to and amplifying in order to contribute meaningfully to the Pride conversation in 2020. They also provide examples of relevant, authentic content at the intersection of LGBTQ issues and racial inequality.

At The Social Shake-Up