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The Motrin Fiasco: All Is Forgiven (Sort of)

This past week, the makers of Motrin posted a video ad on their website criticizing moms who carry their babies.  They noted how carrying their babies – in slings or bjorns, and the like – causes back, neck and shoulder pain and questioned what social motivation would compel a mom would put herself in such discomfort.  Moms, especially mommy bloggers, were angry and marketing experts, especially those who focus on social media, were astonished.

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This past week, the makers of Motrin posted a video ad on their website criticizing moms who carry their babies.  They noted how carrying their babies – in slings or bjorns, and the like – causes back, neck and shoulder pain and questioned what social motivation would compel a mom would put herself in such discomfort.  Moms, especially mommy bloggers, were angry and marketing experts, especially those who focus on social media, were astonished.

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The makers of Motrin didn’t set out to anger or insult mothers, but that it what happened.  Blog posts and Twitter messages numbering in the hundreds (maybe even thousands) came from all directions and there was near consensus that Motrin had not only made a huge mistake but possibly damaged their brand forever.

Then, they apologized.

Within hours of the first negative posts going online the folks at Motrin took their site down and began to rebuild it.  They posted a short note apologizing for their error in judgment and promising to begin the hard work of rebuilding the confidence of their customers.

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All is forgiven, right?

Well, its not that easy – to simply post a note of apology and expect the ill will to simply melt away.  Moreover, all those comments and blog posts are now archived on the web and avaialble for people to see for years to come.  But, the folks at Motrin did demonstrate both a knowledge and interest in what the online world has to say, and that probably saved their brand for ever.

What worked?  First, they listened — by acting quickly, they demonstrated that they had been tracking what was happening online or that the conversation among bloggers and others online was important to them.  Even in this highly connected digital age you don’t see many companies doing that.  Second, they apologized — marketers seem to think they are smarter than consumers, especially when they get into hot water.  They generally aren’t, and acknolwedging that they made a mistake goes a long way in beginning the process of rebuilding the relationships that were damaged.

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Mommy bloggers and social media experts will talk about this one for a long time.  But rather than highlight the mistakes that Motrin made (we all have bad ideas, remember), I hope they focus on how quickly they responded to fix their issue and the work they do going forward to make things better.