Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

Summary: In the case of Motrin, what the mommybloggers have done is taken the powerful army of business consultants it had finally branded itself as, and turned itself into a targeted fear monger.

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Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?The mommybloggers are not a phenomenon, they are here to stay. What are the mommybloggers? A huge network of, well, mommies who write about a variety of issues from politics to consumer culture to trends -- some of them paid handsomely or taking free goods from big brands in order to do reviews or perspective pieces on what's on the market for moms.

These women are not a group to be messed with and they bring a lot of value, especially if you want to learn more about the plight of the blogging mother, and whether or not you are a mom yourself or a brand.

Earlier this year Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger even made a short list of why mommybloggers should be watched. Here's the high-level list (read his blog post for the back-up):

  1. Moms can blog at home
  2. Moms need the sociality of the net
  3. Moms have a wealth of material to use
  4. Moms are record keepers
  5. Mom blogs wield economic power

The last one was proven this weekend when Motrin, poor naive Motrin, put up an ad that was deemed offensive by the legions of mommybloggers, and Twittermoms, to boot. I kept seeing the hashtag #motrinmoms popping up on Twitter all weekend and finally did a bit of digging. I was worried. With all of the fanfare, I was certain there was some issue on par with Tylenol crisis of 1982. Strangely, nothing was popping up on Google News or Google Blogs. It was all on Twitter.

Eventually, I found the root of the crisis. Motrin had posted a commercial on its homepage that the mommybloggers did not like. OK, wow, that commercial must've been horrible to incite such panic during the weekend. Motrin must've destroyed all that is sacred about motherhood. Right? Wrong. The commercial made some skeptical comments about babywearing and made some assertions that perhaps some moms do it for "street cred." Judge for yourself, but I thought it was kind of funny. Then again I am not a mother and also, after much competitive improv training, I've learned to find humor in most anything. That said, I decided to check with my reality touchstone and best friend, who happens to be a single mother of three outside of Birmingham, Alabama. Her reaction?

"It was funny. The commercial merely poked fun at the pride some mom's feel over expressing their motherhood."

What's that trite saying about the inability to make fun of oneself?

Next: Should the witch hunt be rewarded? -->

The truth, my flippancy aside, is that right or wrong it took a lot of time and battling for the mommybloggers -- and full-time moms in general -- to earn credibility outside of the nursery. I can understand and sympathize with those who felt that this ad from Motrin was a slap in the face to that. But, as Peter Shankman said in his insightful blog on the topic, "Let’s be honest - when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia rocks the house, yet search.twitter.com pulls up #Motrinmoms as the lead story, somewhere, there’s a disconnect." Erin Kotecki Vest, an accomplished journalist, wrote yesterday to her fellow mommybloggers, "It’s time to change how you conduct business. It’s no longer us screaming to be recognized. I no longer need to lift my shirt to demand breastfeeding gets respect. I no longer need to stomp my feet and be as snarky as possible when a company obviously has no clue how to engage mommybloggers."

In Motrin's case, the feet-stomping worked. They were done right scared off by the mommyblogger mob. The company pulled the ad of of its main page and replaced it with the following apology:

“With regard to the recent Motrin advertisement, we have heard you.

On behalf of McNeil Consumer Healthcare and all of us who work on the Motrin Brand, please accept our sincere apology.

We have heard your complaints about the ad that was featured on our website. We are parents ourselves and take feedback from moms very seriously.

We are in the process of removing this ad from all media. It will, unfortunately, take a bit of time to remove it from our magazine advertising, as it is on newsstands and in distribution.

Thank you for your feedback. Its very important to us.”

Sincerely, Kathy Widmer Vice President of Marketing McNeil Consumer Healthcare

I imagine this campaign was not cheap, especially considering that Motrin had pushed the ads out into the print world, as well. Given the current state of the economy, however, I need to wonder -- was it smarter for Motrin to pull the ad or would it have been better to ride the storm? Did they really believe this would impact their business? And, while the mommybloggers do have some pull, could their complaining in the microcosm of news that is the blogosphere really have impacted the bottom line in a big way?

Some say yes, some say no. It's a game of tomato, "tomahto" at this point. Either way, Kotecki Vest was right yesterday when she wrote: "Right or wrong, the rest of the web is now rolling its eyes, again at our community. Words like ‘mob’ and ‘rookies’ and ‘divas’ are flying around and we’re not being taken seriously."

Brand power like this needs to be wielded responsibly. It was a 30-second dash from a few people's offense to a group-think infused witch hunt wanting Motrin on a stake. What the mommybloggers have done is taken the powerful army of business consultants it had finally, successfully branded itself as, and turned itself into a targeted fear monger. If I were managing consumer products at a company that caters to mommybloggers, I would definitely be doing a double-take right now. Especially considering the fact that not all moms agreed. Would I question the collective ability of the network to have its finger on the pulse of what moms want? Yes. Would I want my brand guided by fear versus insight? No.

It'll recover. The beauty of cyberspace is that everything blows over and we move on quicker than a high-school break-up. However, the next time the mommyblogger masses decide to get rowdy I urge them to consider the long-term ramifications on their own brand. Was it worth it?

Update 11/20/08 9:25 a.m. - Lexalytics did some analysis of the #motrinmoms Twitter responses that indicates most of the feedback was, indeed, positive and that Motrin might've made a mistake pulling its advertisement. Read the blog post.

Topic: Browser

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63 comments
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  • Fear or revere?

    I'd say there's no need to fear mommybloggers, or put them on some type of pedestal.

    All you need to do (easier said than done), is to treat them with the respect you should give any group of people who are potentially customers, advocates, enemies, or indifferent.
    DanThornton
    • Hmmm

      Unfortunately, they will not respond like potential
      customers, advocates, etc... they are emboldened to
      vicious activism by making a brand like Motrin fall... they
      are like the Evangelical Right that felt invincible during the
      2000 and 2004 elections.

      They will strike fear, they will bite, they will maraud
      through the CPG world until ordinary consumers get tired
      of their rants... and they will then become ridiculed.. but,
      they will have done this to themselves.

      Like the boy who cried "wolf!" or the Sarah Palin who cried
      "terrorists".... but for now, fear them and hide your
      children....

      Now, if only all the mommybloggers want to target a dog
      like Rufus on http://www.dogwalkblog.com, line up and
      give him a kick, he welcomes your traffic! I dare you, make
      him famous!
      Rufus Dogg
      • RE: Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

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        just-do-it
    • Fear of Revere

      I agree with you wholeheartedly. Respect opinions, but do what is right and eventually things work out in the long run. The most difficult aspect of 'listening' to bloggers is to avoid the false claims by either hysterical people or those who just want to sell something no matter what damage can be done.
      grammartogoD
    • Fear of the Fools

      Ultimately, the only people who give credence to such nonsensical rants are people who are just as ignorant as the writers. I've read and watched a few of the rants of the women who are upset with the Motrin ad and aside from some of them plugging whatever website they are part of they seem to have two things in common:

      1) The inability to realize that the commercial was written to give one person's point of view. It does not state that the sentiments expressed were true of every woman who slings her baby to her body.

      2) The need to scold someone. Looks like the maternal instincts have kicked in just fine and the "mommy talk" is ready to fire at anyone who gets in their way. L-i-g-h-t-e-n u-p!

      Ultimately, they will give Motrin more free advertising than Motrin paid for and the women who actually agree with the commercial (and I know for a fact that they're out there) will buy the product.
      Leeroy_Jenkins
  • RE: Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

    Mommybloggers are the new Evangelical Right that put Bush
    in office in 2000 and 2004. The market will tire of them and
    wonder why they had so much influence, but for now, fear
    them.... fear them as you would lose your mortal soul.
    Rufus Dogg
    • Like the pet rock

      the fad, and influence, will pass.
      GuidingLight
      • Blogs?

        oh that's right I forgot they existed.....
        hawkeyefile
  • RE: Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

    Companies should remember that this group of Twitter users doesn't represent all moms on Twitter / Blogs.

    Lots of moms have posted saying they didn't understand what the problem with the ad was, or at least didn't agree with the level of outrage being expressed.
    designmeme
    • Being PC Means You Don't Have To Think

      Actually looking at all the comments and then deciding if any action was necessary would have taken time and good judgment. Instead, with minimal effort, they get "feel good" PR points.

      It's like the kids who get suspended from school for bringing plastic knives in their lunches because the school board has a no tolerance weapons policy. Heaven forbid they should take any responsibility and look at each case in context.

      As a mom who is trying to teach her kids how to be responsible and think critically for themselves, THAT is what offends me.
      MichP
  • RE: Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

    As is the case with most hyper-vocal bloggers/social media-ites, I suspect that drawing recognition and site traffic is the real motivation behind the mommybloggers' rage.

    And to the #motrinmoms who are *truly* upset about this whole thing, my suggestion is this: Take a good look at the world around you. People are losing their jobs by the thousands and retirement funds are evaporating. The fact that you can get so worked up over an advertisement shows just how good you have it in your mommy-blogging microcosm.
    j216t
    • Like yappy little dogs

      Pay attention to ME, ME, ME, ME... too many people out there
      weighing in on this stuff without a clue. We need a good bought of
      recession, drought and starvation to get us back to basics.

      And, if that wasn't enough, Twitter was OUT for a WHOLE HOUR this
      morning, right in the middle of a rant. I swear, I'm going to start a
      campaign against them #twitterdogsagainsttwitter

      I paid NO MONEY for Twitter and I deserve BETTER treatment than
      this!

      I'm going to start by tweeting all my followers. Follow me, moms!!
      Rufus Dogg
    • Very well said.

      >>
      Take a good look at the world around you. People are losing their jobs by the thousands and retirement funds are evaporating. The fact that you can get so worked up over an advertisement shows just how good you have it in your mommy-blogging microcosm.
      <<
      So well written it deserves to be repeated. Personally I barely have time to read and respond to a single intelligent comment but then I'm a work-at-home mother...maybe that's the difference.
      Karras
  • RE: Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

    Let me add to the already excellent commentary by stating the obvious. Come 2 a.m some night, when their little precious spikes a fever, are they going to remember their outrage before starting the tylenol/motrin routine? i think not, said the SAHM of three boys.
    goofiuss
  • Women get mad for nothing

    Apparently some of them have way too much free time. I would like to see them do something about what really matters, not complain on ridiculous unimportant issues like this one. Sad!
    InAction Man
    • Not sure...

      ... that making a blatant statement about a gender is the right way to go, either. And it's not an issue of gender, it's an issue of groupthink. Men do the same thing. Otherwise we wouldn't have the NFL. ;-)
      Jennifer Leggio
      • You may want to edit that "is" to "isn't"

        Makes it seem like your agreeing with him.
        Been_Done_Before
        • Ack

          Can't edit. But thanks for pointing it out. I, for the record, am not agreeing with him. :)
          Jennifer Leggio
          • Take the Ack back

            Don't worry, Jenn. If your "Not Sure..." post is read the way it was intended, starting from the subject, it makes perfect sense. Cheers. :D
            A Nonny Mouse
          • Ok...

            ...thanks. I take the ack back. :)
            Jennifer Leggio