#motrinmoms Use Blogs & Twitter To Ravage Motrin Brand & Ad Campaign

Earlier this week, I wrote about how companies can no longer control their brand once the web gets hold of it.  Today, there’s a HUGE real life example in action.

Motrin has just launched a new ad campaign aimed at Moms.  It’s a text-based video ranting about the pains and sacrifices of baby-wearing – the use of slings, baby carriers, and any of the other plethora of gizmos to strap an infant to your front or back.

Motrin’s point: we do SO much for our kids, but too often, we forget about the toll on ourselves, especially the back pain that ensues from carrying your young kids around for extended periods of time.  The solution, of course, is their pain-relief product.

Check out the ad for yourself and see what you think…

The response from mommy bloggers on their sites and on Twitter was quick, furious, and ENORMOUS.  It appears to have started just yesterday with a post from Amy at crunchydomesticgoddess.com and a Tweet from Jessica Gottlieb.  In less than 24 hours, it has taken off like wildfire.

It is the number one topic on Twitter with THOUSANDS of Tweets…

It has mobilized an army of mommy bloggers all writing online about it…

It has taken down the Motrin website…

And it has already brought Amy a response from Motrin: they’re going to remove the video from the website immediately, and stop the print campaign as soon as possible, too.

The good news for them is that the first apology letter seems to be earning them early kudos from commenters, many of whom are happy to see them acknowledge the error of their strategy.

Unfortunately for Motrin, the damage has already been done.  In ONE DAY, a brand new, presumably very expensive ad campaign is GONE. It has also caused them enormous damage and will likely irrepairably harm their brand within a significant, vocal, and powerful community.

So what should Motrin do?

  1. Continue to acknowledge they made a big mistake and continue to explain the original intent was to sympathize and empathize with the struggles of motherhood (good start on the letter to Amy!).
  2. Comment on as many of the mommy blogs as possible.
  3. Use Twitter to talk about what they’re doing to fix it.
  4. Set up a Facebook group to allow people to discuss the situation and get feedback on their response and solutions.
  5. Come up with a special offer especially targeted as those offended by the ad.

Right now, I’m pretty confident that the one place that will be increasing it’s consumption of Motrin is… Motrin’s marketing headquarters.  They’ve just lost total control of their brand and are in full-scale damage control mode.

So what’s the lesson from this?  There are lots of them, but the big one for me:

  • Don’t ASSUME you know your audience. If you’re going to speak on their behalf, you should ask them first.  Telling a passionate, devoted group of people that you know exactly what they’re thinking is dangerous and risky.

Motrin could have consulted a team of mommy bloggers or baby-wearers before they made the ad, or at bare minimum, could have held a focus group before launching it.

Beware the power of the web to wreak havoc with your brand…

What do you make of the Motrin controversy?  Are the mommy-bloggers justified in the havoc they have wreaked?  What else should Motrin be doing right now?

Some other blogs analyzing Motrin-mania today:

http://hardknoxlife.wordpress.com/2008/11/16/congratulations-motrin-you-just-proved-why-every-brand-needs-to-understand-social-media/

http://www.trishussey.com/2008/11/16/motrin-tries-to-reach-out-but-gets-hand-bitten-off-by-potential-customers/

http://www.successful-blog.com/1/motrinmoms-the-spectacular-opportunity-to-rise-from-a-colossal/

http://www.mathewingram.com/work/2008/11/16/flash-flood-mom-bloggers-and-motrin/

http://bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/bloomberg_marketing/2008/11/motrin-a-case-s.html

http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/allyson-kapin/radical-tech/motrins-pain-viral-video-disaster

http://www.darrenbarefoot.com/archives/2008/11/mommy-bloggers-find-tempest-in-motrins-teacup.html

http://www.miss604.com/2008/11/motrin-mom-video-mishap.html

And here’s one from the Ogilvy PR agency:

http://blog.ogilvypr.com/?p=491.

36 Replies to “#motrinmoms Use Blogs & Twitter To Ravage Motrin Brand & Ad Campaign”

  1. Lucky for Motrin, their product is already in my medicine cabinet, and I have a positive association with it.

    Seriously, I agree with most of what you’re saying except that I believe they have a great, well-known product and that the universe of people who is aware of this “scandal” is going to end up being small. (I can’t believe I am saying this as a Mommy Blogger AND SM consultant AND babywearer). I don’t think they’ll lose customers at this early stage– just money from having to pull a campaign.

  2. Lucky for Motrin, their product is already in my medicine cabinet, and I have a positive association with it.

    Seriously, I agree with most of what you’re saying except that I believe they have a great, well-known product and that the universe of people who is aware of this “scandal” is going to end up being small. (I can’t believe I am saying this as a Mommy Blogger AND SM consultant AND babywearer). I don’t think they’ll lose customers at this early stage– just money from having to pull a campaign.

  3. I’ve seen a lot of posts from moms saying they’ll be boycotting the product, so I’m very curious to see how this plays out. A lot of it will depend on the continued reaction from Motrin HQ, I think.
    In the grand scheme of things, I agree with you, though. I can’t believe I’M saying this (!), but bloggers and twitterers still make up a relatively small market compared to the general population, even if we’ve got a disproportionately loud voice.
    So this could be an interesting test to see what kind of impact it will have on the company overall vs. the impact just on the mommy-blogger community.

  4. I’ve seen a lot of posts from moms saying they’ll be boycotting the product, so I’m very curious to see how this plays out. A lot of it will depend on the continued reaction from Motrin HQ, I think.
    In the grand scheme of things, I agree with you, though. I can’t believe I’M saying this (!), but bloggers and twitterers still make up a relatively small market compared to the general population, even if we’ve got a disproportionately loud voice.
    So this could be an interesting test to see what kind of impact it will have on the company overall vs. the impact just on the mommy-blogger community.

  5. Give it a month or so and see what happens. Did anyone really quit shopping at H&M because of the whole breast feeding fiasco? Does anyone remember.

    I am obviously not a woman, but as my wife sat beside me, someone who shares a 22 month old with me, and watches 5 other toddlers 5 days a week, in our home, when I was playing the commercial she chuckled at a few of the points. Offended she was not, and I wasn’t even showing her in the video in any other context that it was on in her background.

    I have to side with Rookie Mom Whitney on this as to the scale of this scandal is relatively small. I’d be interested in seeing how many people in a mall or at our Little Gym class even, know about this.

  6. Give it a month or so and see what happens. Did anyone really quit shopping at H&M because of the whole breast feeding fiasco? Does anyone remember.

    I am obviously not a woman, but as my wife sat beside me, someone who shares a 22 month old with me, and watches 5 other toddlers 5 days a week, in our home, when I was playing the commercial she chuckled at a few of the points. Offended she was not, and I wasn’t even showing her in the video in any other context that it was on in her background.

    I have to side with Rookie Mom Whitney on this as to the scale of this scandal is relatively small. I’d be interested in seeing how many people in a mall or at our Little Gym class even, know about this.

  7. The fact that only a few thousand bloggers and twitters could impact the marketing direction of a major brand .. and on a Sunday (!) .. to the extent that a website was taken down (on a Sunday) and print ads are being pulled from distribution .. in my book is Hugely significant. It doesn’t even matter that people outside of the social world may never hear about this situation. From a consumer pov perhaps that is the very point. Social media media mavens may have saved the company more from more push back from “main stream moms.”

    The result is that a Fortune 500 company (McNeil Consumer Healthcare is a division of JNJ) has been changed by social media. What that ultimately looks like remains to be seen. If they take their lead from Dell it could be something spectacular.

  8. The fact that only a few thousand bloggers and twitters could impact the marketing direction of a major brand .. and on a Sunday (!) .. to the extent that a website was taken down (on a Sunday) and print ads are being pulled from distribution .. in my book is Hugely significant. It doesn’t even matter that people outside of the social world may never hear about this situation. From a consumer pov perhaps that is the very point. Social media media mavens may have saved the company more from more push back from “main stream moms.”

    The result is that a Fortune 500 company (McNeil Consumer Healthcare is a division of JNJ) has been changed by social media. What that ultimately looks like remains to be seen. If they take their lead from Dell it could be something spectacular.

  9. Hi Steve,

    How the heck are you? Good to see you blogging on these topics (plus this way you’ll stay on the good side of the angry mommy bloggers ; b)

    i wrote a paper on the topic of the shift of power between consumer and marketer/brand that got picked up by the harvard business school (where i’m now working); thought you might want to check it out. it’s a bit theoretical in places, but i made sure to work in lots of anecdotal (very much against the academic tradition)

    http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/08-017.pdf

    best,
    LK

  10. Hi Steve,

    How the heck are you? Good to see you blogging on these topics (plus this way you’ll stay on the good side of the angry mommy bloggers ; b)

    i wrote a paper on the topic of the shift of power between consumer and marketer/brand that got picked up by the harvard business school (where i’m now working); thought you might want to check it out. it’s a bit theoretical in places, but i made sure to work in lots of anecdotal (very much against the academic tradition)

    http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/08-017.pdf

    best,
    LK

  11. Hi Steve,

    How the heck are you? Good to see you blogging on these topics (plus this way you’ll stay on the good side of the angry mommy bloggers ; b)

    i wrote a paper on the topic of the shift of power between consumer and marketer/brand that got picked up by the harvard business school (where i’m now working); thought you might want to check it out. it’s a bit theoretical in places, but i made sure to work in lots of anecdotal (very much against the academic tradition)

    http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/08-017.pdf

    best,
    LK

  12. Let me add my voice to the “get over it” chorus.

    Sometimes wearing a baby hurts.
    Motrin is one pain-relieving solution.
    End of story.

    On Darren Barefoot’s blog, one woman commenter says the voiceover artist sounds like a “well-rested airheaded college co-ed,” now THAT’s condescending. There’s no ad agency in the world that would produce that with a voice that sounds in pain. Besides, would that not be even more offensive? Would mommybloggers not get up in arms (no pun intended) because the narrator implies baby-wearing is always painful.

    But more importantly, the group-think that emerged around this (on a weekend, when a lot of mommybloggers are at home, hence the huge pickup on this) — groupthink that is regurgitated on Barefoot’s blog — is that the ad implies babywearing is bad.

    Watch the ad again. It says, nor implies, any such thing.

    Mommy-bloggers and those who are so “offended” by this need to get over themselves. And get a hobby.

  13. Let me add my voice to the “get over it” chorus.

    Sometimes wearing a baby hurts.
    Motrin is one pain-relieving solution.
    End of story.

    On Darren Barefoot’s blog, one woman commenter says the voiceover artist sounds like a “well-rested airheaded college co-ed,” now THAT’s condescending. There’s no ad agency in the world that would produce that with a voice that sounds in pain. Besides, would that not be even more offensive? Would mommybloggers not get up in arms (no pun intended) because the narrator implies baby-wearing is always painful.

    But more importantly, the group-think that emerged around this (on a weekend, when a lot of mommybloggers are at home, hence the huge pickup on this) — groupthink that is regurgitated on Barefoot’s blog — is that the ad implies babywearing is bad.

    Watch the ad again. It says, nor implies, any such thing.

    Mommy-bloggers and those who are so “offended” by this need to get over themselves. And get a hobby.

  14. For me, it’s not necessarily who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m quite certain that Motrin had zero intention of offending anyone with the ad, even though that’s what’s happened.
    What I find more interesting is that a passionate community has had a big impact in an incredibly short period of time with no money spent at all. They’ve sent a major corporation into damage control mode and toasted a big ad campaign.
    That’s the power of social media and companies need to think more about it, acknowledge it, and plan smarter strategies for how to deal with events like this when they happen.

  15. For me, it’s not necessarily who’s right and who’s wrong. I’m quite certain that Motrin had zero intention of offending anyone with the ad, even though that’s what’s happened.
    What I find more interesting is that a passionate community has had a big impact in an incredibly short period of time with no money spent at all. They’ve sent a major corporation into damage control mode and toasted a big ad campaign.
    That’s the power of social media and companies need to think more about it, acknowledge it, and plan smarter strategies for how to deal with events like this when they happen.

  16. It has to be one of the first times that a company has responded in such a panicked way, believing that the disapproval of a few thousand internet squawkers represented the mass public.

    Which is a bit alarming if companies are going to start heeding the squeaky wheel before they even really think about what is going on, or the scale and levity of the source.

    You definitely need to know and respect your audience. But, my impression of the internet in terms of opinion and conviction is as iron clad as entrapping a crowd with spaghetti.

  17. It has to be one of the first times that a company has responded in such a panicked way, believing that the disapproval of a few thousand internet squawkers represented the mass public.

    Which is a bit alarming if companies are going to start heeding the squeaky wheel before they even really think about what is going on, or the scale and levity of the source.

    You definitely need to know and respect your audience. But, my impression of the internet in terms of opinion and conviction is as iron clad as entrapping a crowd with spaghetti.

  18. I can’t help but liken it to cyber-bullying and there are alot of reasons why cyber-bullying and activities like web mobilization of the masses exist now. The web is an interface which keeps the user always at a remove from direct interaction, there are usually no direct consequences, and it’s incredibly easy to use and convenient. Sure, there’s the postive aspect of the democratization of the media but the downside is that control is now in the hands of masses who I feel have a very diminished sense of consequences. Interesting topics, Pratt!

  19. I can’t help but liken it to cyber-bullying and there are alot of reasons why cyber-bullying and activities like web mobilization of the masses exist now. The web is an interface which keeps the user always at a remove from direct interaction, there are usually no direct consequences, and it’s incredibly easy to use and convenient. Sure, there’s the postive aspect of the democratization of the media but the downside is that control is now in the hands of masses who I feel have a very diminished sense of consequences. Interesting topics, Pratt!

  20. Weighing in here a bit late, but it seems to me their reaction was appropriate to the audience. Sure, maybe it was only a “few thousand internet squawkers,” but that’s who the campaign was launched at — an online ad, aimed at mothers. When that target audience reacted so vehemently, they had to respond.

    I’m online most of my waking hours, and I hadn’t heard about this until today, so the impact outside of the target audience is likely limited. But Motrin found the other side of the sword when zeroed in on the exact demographic they wanted. It cuts both ways.

  21. Weighing in here a bit late, but it seems to me their reaction was appropriate to the audience. Sure, maybe it was only a “few thousand internet squawkers,” but that’s who the campaign was launched at — an online ad, aimed at mothers. When that target audience reacted so vehemently, they had to respond.

    I’m online most of my waking hours, and I hadn’t heard about this until today, so the impact outside of the target audience is likely limited. But Motrin found the other side of the sword when zeroed in on the exact demographic they wanted. It cuts both ways.

  22. Jeremy that’s a bit of a narrow summation to make, that the online audience that spoke out was the only one the campaign was focused at. I am pretty sure there’s a much larger audience outside the internet that TV, magazine and newspaper ads are intended for.

    I’d be interested to see what would have happened had Motrin ran the campaign regardless of the minimal online backlash.

    Sure some people would have been offended, but they are the ones quite frankly that never wane in their energy to get offended by something.

    The most ironic thing, in my opinion of all of this was the campaign aimed at giving an honest voice to something that doesn’t get enough due – being a mother is exhausting, painful and tiring work with little acknowledgement. And yet here were mothers angry that someone dare poke fun at notion that being a parent is a market that gets marketed to with the next best way to do your job more earthy like quite vigorously these days.

    The notion that carrying 7-20 EXTRA pounds isn’t exactly easy on your back, isn’t that absurd of a notion, right? And as a parent, I am getting pretty damn tired of the endless new-agey things I can buy that are supposed to make my child rearing more natural.

    Bottom line the commercial was funny, spot on, and its a shame it got sunk because the economy has put companies into high grade fear. That they’d let so few people determine their direction.

    About the only thing this will do is give ‘new media’ moguls more credence to fluff their feathers about their over inflated sense that the online flash mobbing is all powerful.

  23. Jeremy that’s a bit of a narrow summation to make, that the online audience that spoke out was the only one the campaign was focused at. I am pretty sure there’s a much larger audience outside the internet that TV, magazine and newspaper ads are intended for.

    I’d be interested to see what would have happened had Motrin ran the campaign regardless of the minimal online backlash.

    Sure some people would have been offended, but they are the ones quite frankly that never wane in their energy to get offended by something.

    The most ironic thing, in my opinion of all of this was the campaign aimed at giving an honest voice to something that doesn’t get enough due – being a mother is exhausting, painful and tiring work with little acknowledgement. And yet here were mothers angry that someone dare poke fun at notion that being a parent is a market that gets marketed to with the next best way to do your job more earthy like quite vigorously these days.

    The notion that carrying 7-20 EXTRA pounds isn’t exactly easy on your back, isn’t that absurd of a notion, right? And as a parent, I am getting pretty damn tired of the endless new-agey things I can buy that are supposed to make my child rearing more natural.

    Bottom line the commercial was funny, spot on, and its a shame it got sunk because the economy has put companies into high grade fear. That they’d let so few people determine their direction.

    About the only thing this will do is give ‘new media’ moguls more credence to fluff their feathers about their over inflated sense that the online flash mobbing is all powerful.

  24. I’d also like to suggest that those most vocal against them making fun of the baby slings, are probably ones who are trying to justify having spent $60 for a sling they could have made themselves out of a bed sheet.

  25. I’d also like to suggest that those most vocal against them making fun of the baby slings, are probably ones who are trying to justify having spent $60 for a sling they could have made themselves out of a bed sheet.

    1. I’ve read SO much online about the Tropicana redesign being a disaster (and the new INSANE Pepsi branding document that got leaked online) that this isn’t surprising, but thanks for sharing – I didn’t know they’d actually caved in to the pressure! I’m in the States now and saw the Tropicana repackaging for the first time yesterday and it was honestly REALLY hard to tell which type of OJ was which (pulp, no pulp, heavy pulp), so probably a good call 🙂

    1. I’ve read SO much online about the Tropicana redesign being a disaster (and the new INSANE Pepsi branding document that got leaked online) that this isn’t surprising, but thanks for sharing – I didn’t know they’d actually caved in to the pressure! I’m in the States now and saw the Tropicana repackaging for the first time yesterday and it was honestly REALLY hard to tell which type of OJ was which (pulp, no pulp, heavy pulp), so probably a good call 🙂

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