The groundswell gives Motrin a headache
by Josh Bernoff
By now you may already have heard about the Motrin Moms saga. In a nutshell:
- Motrin put the ad you see above on its Web site. First mistake -- the ad is wrong. Since my wife is affiliated with La Leche League, an organization that supports breastfeeding, I can tell you that if wearing your baby hurts your back or neck, you need positioning help, not Motrin. And moms who care about parenting are exactly the wrong people to offend in your ad -- they talk!
- Pissed off moms start a firestorm on Twitter (#motrinmoms is trending), followed by hundreds of blog posts. Notable ones include David Armano at Logic & Emotion, with a very complete early analysis, and Sarah Evans on Mashable, with advice on what to do next. Jeremiah runs down the numbers. And this satirical view is amusing.
- A Facebook group attracts hundreds (in one day) requesting a Motrin boycott.
- Johnson & Johnson takes Motrin.com down. Unfortunately, this stuff lives on the Internet forever.
- Inevitably, the controversy pokes its way into the traditional media, in this case Forbes. And the parenting blog of the New York Times.
It's Monday morning, but even though this broke on Saturday, it's already well-trod ground. J&J has months of PR work to (un)do and hours to do it in.
In the Introduction to Groundswell we said that in situations like these, "traditional PR tools were as useless as a broadsword against a rain of poison darts." And it's true. J&J is basically powerless against this, because Motrin has no presence in the social world. I find it notable that the "Motrin blog" near the top of Google's blogsearch for Motrin is a flog for an online generic ibuprofen sales site. (I'll spare you the link.) I'm sure they're loving the traffic right now.
- You need a community about your brand -- private or public -- so you can test how these things will play. This is essential market research.
- You need a Twitter account and/or a blog to be able to respond quickly when these things happen. They do happen. They could and will happen to you. (They have certainly happened to me, and it's a good thing I had a place to respond.) Otherwise you have no voice.
- Viral has two sides. Never forget that.
- Immunize your marketing and brand staff by educating them. Show them what happened here, and ask them, "Does this scare you? Do you see the power of this stuff?" Then invest $20 and buy them a copy of Groundswell or Secrets of Social Media Marketing to help them get a clue, and use this incident to get them started. (If they don't like to read, I'll even read it to them.)
Update: Motrin has posted an apology. Two days later. See below. (Seth Godin finds it lacking -- and I agree.)