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Eliot Frick

What is going on here is akin to the American Revolution inasmuch as it deals with distribution of power and enfranchisement. The founders of the U.S. were wary of unmitigated democracy; as well they should have been. They watched as the Sons of Liberty tarred and feathered loyalists and in some cases lynched them. Democracy is mob rule. That's not a pretty thing. And it ain't pretty here either.

That the internet has given a voice to those ephemeral political forces that rise up in response to things like Motrin ads, is not blanket license to act like a bunch of rampaging Ostrogoths. Have you seen the tenor of the commentary? The "despicable" ad?

What is needed is institution. In this case, what needs to be instituted is an enfranchisement model that allows for real dialog between brands and their consumers. As it stands, we've got unbridled and unhinged flame-throwing. Which, if the decision-makers of these brands don't figure it out, the shrill voices that tend to dominate unfettered political discussion will tear the whole thing to the ground. Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face indeed.

Michele Miller

I agree completely, Eliot. Good point. We ARE witnessing a bit of "mob" reaction, but I think the heightened reaction (aka flame throwing) comes in part from this being such a new form of communication. I have hopes that as time goes by, the criticism will become more constructive on the part of social media users. Used in a productive way, these kinds of tools can open up avenues of real communication between brands and consumers, allowing for improvement and ongoing dialogue.


People who are active in social media have been firestorming companies from almost day one. The Motrin Moms experience is different, for me at least, because as Michele pointed out it was a segment of the brand's target audience that was able to quickly mobilize. I have to think that McNeil Consumer Health felt that the feedback was representative of the way that a significant number of their customers/prospects would feel. They did take action to stop the campaign.

As for the Motrin brand team acting in traditional ways .. while an apology on a website may be considered that .. an email to a blogger is certainly not. As for Mr. Godin's post - the links he points to appear to be part of the site and not the letter. I mean come on .. would the Modrin marketers have been that lame as to tag the page with advertising? If they did they need far more help than any of us can provide in a post.

Michele Miller

Great insight, Toby. What excites me about this particular situation is that it seems to be the representative case study for the "tipping point" in the effect social media can have on brands. If you're going to target a small segment of customers, you better be darn sure you know them inside and out, including what their feeling might be to a particular message you're sending out. This shows how quickly it can turn around to bite you in the behind.

Thanks for your comment, Toby!

Yvonne DiVita

This is certainly a good case for consumer control - and the realization that our voices are louder than ever before.

When I saw the J&J commercial, I had to wonder how they justified it...and why they didn't pass it by some real Moms...especially blogger Moms. Surely, J&J is aware of the power and number of Mommy bloggers.

Well, maybe not. They should read your blog, Michele, and mine. I remind people on a regular basis that MOMS are communing online. That MOMS and professional women are now using the net as their "meeting at the well" and they will not hold loyalty to any brand that refuses to engage them in authentic conversation.


What wasn't authentic about that conversation, Yvonne?

1) Babywearing is now the thing to do. Well, yeah - how much has it grown in popularity vs 10, 20, 30 years ago? Check.

2) It's supposed to be better, but the jury's still out. Well, yeah -- you can't seriously think all mainstream moms are totally sold on it, do you? They perceive quite well that their mothers used strollers and that they didn't grow up to be serial killers.

3) It can hurt. Well, duh. That's a truth. It's an inconvenient truth to those who want to spread the babywearing gospel, but it's truth.

4) There is some bizarre perception that the marketers of Motrin aren't "real mothers." Of course they are. There are plenty of mothers working as brand managers, brand assistants, etc. on the business. Mommybloggers don't seem to get that, because they only perceive moms as women like themselves, who don't participate in the work force.

The conversation was plenty authentic. It just pissed off a small but vocal crowd who doesn't want women to hear about the downsides of babywearing, and thinks that Motrin should be promoting babywearing, instead of merely mentioning it as a cause of pain that their product can relieve. That's all.

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