The highly publicized Trayvon Martin case and the public’s subsequent outrage have not only sparked nationwide protests, it’s also silently brought Skittles a new level of unexpected profit. Millions of bags of the popular candy snack which 17-year-old Martin was carrying when he was gunned down have been bought as a symbol to express the sense of injustice people feel was committed. But as The New York Times points out, Skittles’ rise in popularity is both a blessing and a curse.
“You get trained if someone dies eating your product, but I don’t think anyone has been through training for something like this,” Beth Gallant, a marketing professor at Lehigh University told the New York Times.
Skittles was already an immensely successful product before it became a national symbol with the tragic death of 17-year-old Martin. The colorful chewy snack was first imported from Britain in 1979. Since then it has become one of the most popular candy choices for teenagers and young children. In fact, it’s second only to Starbust. But in its newfound popularity, the candy has been stacked into makeshift memorials, sent to the Sanford Police Department and carried in rallies and protest around the nation.
“There is this moment where as a brand manager you think, ‘Oh my God, this is bigger than we are,’ ” Heidi Hovland, a senior partner at Fleishman-Hillard in New York said. “It’s gone so quickly from the symbol of innocence and tragedy to one of ‘now that they are making all this money, what are they going to do with it?’ ” Ms. Hovland said. “It’s amazing how short the arc has become.”
Although Wrigley, the makers of Skittles have chosen to remain quiet and have only issued a brief statement of condolence to the Martin family and stated its belief to remain neutral, social media sites are abuzz with suggestions that Wrigley donated to the family. The New York Times reports that some African-Americans are even suggesting that people refrain from buying Skittles until the company decides to get more involved and show financial support.
Hovland personally believes that Skittle’s quick rise in popularity will soon fade out. “When cooler heads prevail,” she said, “people will recognize that this was a candy that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”