J&J’s Motrin headache and need for Band-Aid after moms revolt

By · Monday, November 17th, 2008

What an interesting 48 hours.  J&J’s Motrin brand and its advertising became the #1 word on Twitter (#1motrinmoms) and lit up the blogosphere and finally mainstream media with this ad.

More interesting, is that it supposedly was released on September 30 according to David Armano and AdAge.  What is fascinating is that the ad was run online with a goal of supposedly being sympathetic and appreciative of what parents do by using the term “babywearing” – and mom’s were offended. How offended?  You decide from this compilation:

The next time someone says: “Twitter – nah I don’t bother with that” – Just give them a Motrin!

Lessons to be learned:

  1. In this day and age, brands must monitor sentiment
  2. You must have a presence in social media BEFORE the proverbial SH hits the fan
  3. When you launch a campaign in this day and age, integrate social media and monitor it.  Otherwise social media will be integrated for you.  People are going to talk about you whether you like it or not – make sure you know what they are saying.
  4. Online is forever – When a community can make or break you quickly, monitor a campaign in realtime and adjust accordingly.  If you are not plugged in, make sure your agency or someone on your team is so that a tempest does not became a storm
  5. Humor is not easy.  What is funny for one person is not funny for another.  In a country with many diverse cultures, surely someone raised the issue? Was it tested? In some cultures, babies are “worn” and transported physically rather than in strollers – and many moms and dads are “wearing” their kids now
  6. If you are going to issue an apology (which they did) in the wake of an online and increasingly viral firestorm, make it easy for people to share it – don’t do it in an image.  Firstly, do it in text so people can share it and secondly, text is more likely to be indexed and show up in the search engines
  7. Be sincere and transparent and don’t make it corporate speak.  Check out what Seth Godin had to say.

VP-Marketing Kathy Widmer started apologizing to bloggers via e-mail and posted an apology on their site in place of the ad. If the end of the apology is right, maybe they did learn:

One bright spot is that we have learned through this process – in particular, the importance of paying close attention to the conversations that are taking place online. It has also brought home the importance of taking a broader look at what we say and how it may be interpreted

After thought #1: With a Google search for Motrin showing 7 of the top 10 as negative responses re the ad; the blog posts; the views on YouTube and the Tweets on Twitter, the power of communities is evident.  And fast.

After thought #2: How would this have been had mommy bloggers been involved in the ad?  For sure it would not have had the tone it had.  And if bloggers were involved, just how viral would this have been in a positive way?


Hey – yesterday Delta withdrew a new scheme that they launched only a week before. Delta’s new scheme meant that Platinum Medallion Members could no longer get access to prefered seats without paying or locking them in exactly 24 hours before the flight.

A storm of protest evolved on Delta’s own blog as well as places like Flyertalk. And Delta listened. And evolved back to the original scheme.

You are right with your lessons learned. And apology goes a long way, but actions speak louder than words. That is why I was impressed with Delta’s approach.

Check here



We are going to see more and more of the customers wanting to be part of the process. Technically the customer pays for the company to exist – if they did not buy the goods and services, the company would fold. So at the base level, why not engage the customer BEFORE springing this on them?

Sure they get points for listening and reacting, but they could potentially have avoided the indigestion.


Agreed. But companies will make mistakes, even if they have “BEFORE strategies”. And in those instances, I think you own up, you avoid spin (well… as much as possible) and then you correct and make that public.

I think Delta is to be commended on the second and third part of my comment above. They of course completely forgot about the first part – they could have floated the idea before hand to their loyal posse through their blog, and could have avoided the issue.

But the way they reacted to it is commendable.

Now let’s see if the Delta Skelter blog picks up on it :-)

Agreed. Companies are only human. And I do believe if they are engaged they will be given credit for owning up, being transparent and open. Completely agree. They could easily have worked with the blogers to get some sentiment feedback first.

:-) Thanks for the laugh :-)