Flash flood: Mom bloggers and Motrin

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My kids are too old to carry around in slings — I mostly drive them everywhere now — but I can still sympathize with the mom (and some dad) bloggers who are up in arms about Motrin’s latest marketing campaign, which uses “baby-wearing” as a way of trying to appeal to moms as potential customers. The rationale seems to be that using slings and other baby-carrying paraphernalia is mostly a fad, and causes back and neck pain that requires Motrin. Instead, hundreds of moms are criticizing Motrin on Twitter — where they have helpfully tagged their comments with #motrinmoms — and on dozens of blogs as well.

If you’re one of those who believes that “any publicity is good publicity,” or that getting potential customers “engaged” with your product includes pissing them off, then the Motrin campaign probably seems like a great success. And I’m sure there are those who will argue that the critical Motrin moms are a vocal minority, that they are too easily offended by something that was meant to be humorous, etc. That may even be true. But it’s still a problem for the company — a very modern problem. For better or worse, this kind of social-media “flash flood” of negative PR involving Twitter, blogs and Facebook is becoming more and more commonplace.

It will be interesting to see how Motrin responds. Will they take the same road as GM did when everyone used the footage they provided to generate negative commercials for the Chevy Tahoe? Or will try their best to they ignore it? If they’re smart, they’ll run a bunch of the Twitter comments, video responses and blog posts on the Motrin site. Dave Knox, a digital brand manager for Procter & Gamble, says Motrin has a problem on its hands (link via Cyndy Aleo-Carreira at The Industry Standard). Shannon McKarney has some good perspective on the whole kerfuffle here.

Comments (15)

  1. Louis Gray wrote::

    I wouldn't put myself in the angry or incensed group at all, but their message was completely off-base. If I handed you two 5 month old twins and said not to use slings or backpacks, but to use your arms, would you be less fatigued and in pain, or more so? I routinely use slings or baby carriers so I can cope, not so it's a fashion statement.

    My wife thought the same. Amusing, but completely stupid. It's got people frustrated on a slow Sunday night. BTW – if you want to try out holding our twins for a bit, swing down to the Bay Area sometime.

    Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 11:08 pm #
  2. mathewi wrote::

    Yeah, it was definitely the wrong tone, Louis — I agree. As for holding the twins, I'm sure you would take any help you could get, sling or otherwise. My brother-in-law had twins and I know they definitely had their hands full. But don't worry — it gets better, after about five years or so :-)

    Sunday, November 16, 2008 at 11:25 pm #
  3. tweetip wrote::

    #motrinmoms ~ 1st Tweets ~ timeline & chart… http://tweetip.us/lkaip

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 3:38 am #
  4. ianbetteridge wrote::

    I think this highlights a potential issue for all kinds of creative work, including advertising, going forward. Unless your work is the blandest possible, you will always have 5% of the audience who respond very badly to it. And in a media ecosystem where that tiny minority can have a very big voice thanks to the tools of social media, you face a choice: produce work which offends no one, which is a gauranteed way of making bland content, or be prepared to weather the storm.

    I'm not saying Motrin falls into this category, as I haven't seen it (I had to look up what Motrin was – it's not a brand we have over this side of the pond). But it's indicative of how a small minority can create a “media storm”.

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 5:45 am #
  5. mathewi wrote::

    That's a fair point, Ian. And I'm not even saying that the Motrin moms are necessarily right, or that Motrin shouldn't have made the ad — but I do think they need to respond, even if it is just a vocal minority.

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 8:43 am #
  6. ianbetteridge wrote::

    Indeed. I guess the lesson really is “have a plan to respond to people who are annoyed/upset/angry about what you've done – even if you think your work is inoffensive.” And you need that plan before the problem arises, not afterwards.

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 8:51 am #
  7. mathewi wrote::

    Exactly.

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 8:58 am #
  8. Scott wrote::

    I agree — Motrin stepped in something foul. Check this post: http://shakethesalt.com/2008/11/moms-speak-out-

    As you posted previously, EA is a prime example with their Tiger Woods “Jesus Shot” video response. With all these communication tools available, companies would be foolish to just ignore stuff like this. Besides, if they respond to the criticism, at the very least it says they're listening. (Or are at least taking the time to create the illusion of listening)

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 9:27 am #
  9. I was amazed at how off base the tone of the babywearing ad was, as if they didn't do much if any research… and as frustrating as I found that ad to be, I was even less impressed with the Children's Motrin ad – how many times do I have to hear the word “crazy” before I begin to wonder if I'm being called crazy?

    It appeared to me that Motrin was marketing directly to babywearing moms (in the first ad), so whether they are the mainstream or the minority, shouldn't they be “listening” for feedback from this group? The response and even awareness of the buzz the ad created seemed very slow.

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 2:06 pm #
  10. This reminds me of Mad Men, where they invite one woman into the meeting and ask her “what do women think about product x or issue y”… Very familiar from my days in advertising, which is an industry dominated by people who have virtually no knowledge of the people they're marketing to.

    I don't know if this is the case here, but in many ad agencies and marketing departments it seems that research is becoming more and more unfashionable — sacrificed at the altar of “edgy” or “provocative” creative…

    All of which is a long way of saying that the Baby Bjorn saved our life in the first few months of parenthood!

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 3:43 pm #
  11. antje wilsch wrote::

    Update: they took the video down, and have now put an updated apology on the site.

    Monday, November 17, 2008 at 4:17 pm #
  12. noni benefits wrote::

    Hi mathew excellent information one thing i observed in your blog is that your writing skill is very good.

    Thanks

    Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 12:19 pm #
  13. Interesting one, thank you.

    Debra

    Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 11:18 am #
  14. Interesting one, thank you.

    Debra

    Sunday, August 16, 2009 at 4:18 pm #
  15. 420Pipes wrote::

    As an industry veteran I am upset that Moltrim would do such a thing. I have been boycotting them since I heard about it.

    Sunday, February 7, 2010 at 1:55 am #

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