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Motrin Moms emulate our real mothers, scold us for not listening

November 24, 2008

(This is a guest post from Peter Borrelli, a colleague of mine at EMA. There’s more on the whole Motrin thing here. )

Backlash (2008)

Image via Wikipedia

After the “Social Media Fail Whale” that Motrin experienced last weekend, the company was forced to pull the controversial baby-wearing ad, begin the arduous process of pulling similarly themed ads from print publications, take down the entire website, and respond with a personal apology

All of the post-mortem of this debacle seemed to arrive at the general consensus that this was the bellwether telling us how consumers’ power has finally surpassed that of the marketers. Well, it certainly does confirm that consumers have a substantial voice in today’s digital media environment, but I think the real lesson for marketers is that they have serious power now too

Never before have there been so many opportunities for marketers to gather critical insight from customers and potential customers. The real mistake from Motrin’s affront to “mom-bloggers” is summed up by this post from the “blogher” network on “Motringate”, and echoes our post on listening from a couple weeks ago

So marketers can now listen and engage consumers, and by doing so openly and transparently, have a golden opportunity to endear themselves to the communities relevant to their brand with whom they’re interacting. What if Motrin had been engaging with mom-bloggers before this happened and had reached out to ask them what their real pains are? Could they have avoided this

If marketers can grasp the takeaway here that missing the mark creates such an outrage because they’ve been given the equivalent of a comprehensive cheat sheet the day before the big exam, and they still brought home an F, hopefully they will begin to see the value in monitoring important web communities discussing their brand and making the effort to interact in a timely, sincere, and proactive fashion

What specific lesson is there for communications agencies? On Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy blog, he recounts the Motrin Moms Backlash

“Although brand backlash certainly wasn’t intention, I’m sure that some at advertising firm who created the campaign will chalk this up as a success (it got influencers talking about the brand –who previously weren’t), although the PR group certainly has been dealing with this firestorm all weekend.”

What if one agency worked on the entire campaign, and made social media strategy an important component from Day One? Why should the PR agency be left alone to weather the storm? Integration, cohesion, and the obliteration of silos are going to be paramount to agencies achieving success with social media-integrated campaigns. That way, nobody will be left with having to clean up a baby mess caused by someone else.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2008 2:36 pm

    Thanks Pete. Good post. Listen is the first step. But then we’ll have to wonder who the client will pay to listen. Should it be the agency? Which one? Motrin had more than one.

  2. ncmayhem permalink
    November 24, 2008 5:41 pm

    Nice post Pete. I agree, now more than ever agency’s need to make sure they are integrated with various types of disciplines to help their clients. It’s helps when a problem like this arises.

  3. ncmayhem permalink
    November 24, 2008 5:41 pm

    PS. Love the UnderTaker pic:)

  4. peterjborrelli permalink
    November 24, 2008 5:48 pm

    Rest. In. PIECES!!!


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