Should big brands fear or revere the mommybloggers?

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.
Written by Jennifer Leggio, Contributor
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.

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