Social Networking Gives Motrin a Big Headache
I'm head of marketing for our company and our younger employees keep telling me that it's critical we monitor the online social networks for information about our company and products. I think they're too self-absorbed and that the online world is such a tiny percentage of our customer base that it's safely ignored. What's your opinion?
Well, let me tell you a story about what happened mid-November to a company you might have heard of, Johnson & Johnson, and its Motrin product line ad campaign. Apparently, a few months ago the Motrin group (McNeil Consumer Healthcare) hired a new ad agency, Taxi New York, known for edgy advertisements.
Motrin launched its edgy new ad campaign with a redesign to its Web site that featured video adverts and print, with the theme "it's hard to be a modern mom, Motrin can take the pain away". Good in the big picture, but the execution of the campaign was clumsy, insulting and just plain missed the mark.
Here's the transcript of the first spot: "Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion. I mean, in theory its a great idea. There's the front baby carrier, sling, schwing, wrap, pouch. And who knows what else they've come up with. Wear your baby on your side, your front, go hands free. Supposedly [insert air quotes here] its a real bonding experience. They say that babies carried close to the body tend to cry less than others. But what about me? Do moms that wear their babies cry more than those who don't? I sure do! These things put a ton of strain on your back, your neck, your shoulders. Did I mention your back? I mean, Ill put up with the pain because its a good kind of pain; its for my kid. Plus, it totally makes me look like an official mom. And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why."
I understand that there's a snarkiness to this, a self-deprecating sense that seems to be common to advertising aimed at the 20-30 demographic, but this was a spectacular misfire because unlike pipe fitters, hairdressers or truck drivers, lots and lots of moms are online and collectively represent an impressive force in the marketplace.
Within hours of its launch, mommy bloggers were using Twitter to express their outrage and find peer support, using a common #motrinmoms tag for easy collective identification. Their blog entries referenced each other, they Twittered back and forth, and if someone stumbled into the party and said "uh, it's not so bad, they're kinda fun, if lame ads" one or two of them attacked, accusing the newcomers of "not getting it". (I know, I had that happen to me when I suggested the campaign was clumsy but not abysmal)
Within 24 hours it was a mob scene in the digital world and within 48 hours they had accomplished what you, as a marketing director, need to really think about: they'd gotten Motrin to pull down the campaign and send out written apologies to the most vocal of the mommy bloggers. The email, from Kathy Widmer, McNeil Consumer Healthcare VP of Marketing, said in part:
"We certainly did not mean to offend moms through our advertising. Instead, we had intended to demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies. We believe deeply that moms know best and we sincerely apologize for disappointing you. Please know that we take your feedback seriously and will take swift action with regard to this ad. We are in process of removing it from our website..."
The conclusion you should draw? That you absolutely need to be monitoring discussion about your products and services in the online world and reacting quickly, intelligently and appropriately when needed. It's a new world, don't fall behind.
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