Motrin Revisited

After a week removed from observing the “Motrin Mobs” er…Motrin Moms controversy, I’ve read a lot regarding whether the brand overreacted. Questions I asked myself included:

  • Was this outrage self-contained?
  • Where could the risk have been mitigated?
  • What were the unique qualifiers that determined the cancellation of the campaign?
  • Was this a purely emotional decision by Motrin?
  • How could Motrin have addressed this differently?

The above illustration (though very basic) shows what could have occurred had Motrin left twitter alone and let sentiment boil over. The primary argument that I’ve read in the advertising journals is that Motrin overreacted due to Twitter’s limited reach. According to an AdAge article on the subject, a Google search last week indicated around 4,000 tweets on Twitter, and analysis using Radian6 data and by Lexalytics suggested around 1,500 tweets involving around 1,000 individuals using the #motrinmoms hash tag.

One item overlooked is how Twitter isn’t necessarily a centralized destination for conversation. In fact Twitter conversation is aggregated across multiple social platforms. So if I’m on the receiving end of visceral anger from my customer base over a campaign that was already a bit long in the tooth, what would you do? I have to be honest, I’d probably do the same exact thing. It was the equivalent of building a dam to stop the stream before it waterfalled into conversations impossible to curate.

Does that mean I encourage turning a blind eye to my customers?

Hardly.

When conversation turns from a meme to a mob, you have very few choices when it comes to mitigation. I assure you, working in the automotive space, I’ve seen my fare share. Motrin took a lot of criticism for not engaging bloggers head on verses their plea for forgiveness on the Motrin site. But that very Motrin.com plea was effective as the bloggers who jumped on Motrin were the same ones who carried the message of “white flag” to their respective online communities.

What I hope is Motrin actually learns from this experience. There’s still a great story to be told – inviting influentials to sit with Motrin and their respective agencies to learn about what it was that truly set them off. Maybe even collaborating with real people verses a condescending voice over to give the next campaign authenticity.

When pitchforks are at your throats, it’s hard to open the gate to let in the masses. I think it’s a case by case decision and in this case, I think Motrin did the right thing.

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