By now, I’m sure you are all familiar with the Trayvon Martin story (in case you’ve been in hibernation for the last month you can read all the details here) and that his body was found with a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea, throwing the two companies in the middle of things becoming icons of the Trayvon movement.
Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea have both seen their sales increase as people use their products to help raise money and awareness for the Martin family. Many feel that Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea have a responsibility to take a stance but both companies have released statements essentially taking a hands off approach. Skittles said, “We are deeply saddened by the news of Trayvon Martin’s death and express our sincere condolences to his family and friends,we also respect their privacy and feel it inappropriate to get involved or comment further as we would never wish for our actions to be perceived as an attempt of commercial gain following this tragedy.” Arizona Iced Tea soon followed with: “[We would like to] express our sincere sympathies to Trayvon’s family and friends. At this time, we will make no further comment as we wish to respect the family’s privacy and grieving time and feel it is inappropriate to become involved in a private family matter.”
These statements were not enough in the minds of those who have taken to Twitter in droves to tell Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea that they ought to donate the money they have made off of free advertising and Trayvon to help his family. It’s a slippery slope no matter how they play it, donate money and they could get criticized for it not being enough, talk about your brand and Trayvon and suddenly you are a corporate villain trying to capitalize on a tragedy, do nothing and you are greedy relishing in your new found profit. There are some groups who have called for a boycott on Skittles until the company agrees to take a stance and donate.
I think Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea made the right decision not to get directly involved even though they are caught in the cross hairs. Both companies were thrust into the middle of a giant controversy through no fault of their own and are simply doing everything they can to come out unscathed (not an uncommon problem, as we’ve seen before).