Motrinmoms: The Spectacular Opportunity to Rise from a Colossal Mistake

Savvy Companies Don’t Have to Do This

Tonight, a corporation made a colossal mistake. Motrin put up this ad.

The ad was meant to tell Moms with new babies that Motrin understood their pain. Except, in the process of building their campaign and that ad, they forgot to get in touch with new Moms and their pain.

I’m hoping this won’t scare off other corporations looking to enter the social media sphere. What happened here was problem with a team that didn’t do it’s job on two fronts.

Motrin didn’t do what they claimed. They also didn’t know the media in which they placed the ad. Savvy companies don’t have to make the same mistakes.

What Motrin Didn’t “Get” about New Moms

Some folks are saying that Motrin needs to understand social media. I’m with that. They blew it big. But social media only speaks to the size, speed, and volume of the response to their collosal mistake.

A company that claims WE FEEL YOUR PAIN. Better know what they’re talking about long before they get to the social web.

Motrin made it obvious that they don’t.

If you felt the pain of new mothers, then you’d realize that it’s off to use high heels and carrying a feverish child in the same sentence as examples of feeling underappreciated.

If you felt the pain of new mothers, then you’d see that the “fashion” of baby slings is a luxury very few new mothers think about. New mothers — with and without baby slings — are worried about more important things than that.

If you felt the pain of new mothers, then you’d understand that it’s not the ache in their back or in their head that makes them cry or say “what about me?”

The pain of new mothers is people who make light of their feelings.

It’s the hope that they’ll measure up and the worry that they won’t. It’s the folks who offer advice as if they know more than the new mom about what’s best for her child. It’s the people who say “Here, take a couple of headache pills and you’ll feel better after that.” It’s people who claim they feel her pain and don’t bother to find out what her pain is really like.

That’s the part that Motrin didn’t get about new moms.

What Motrin Didn’t “Get” About Social Media

The fundamental problem with the ad is that the “unique pain of baby sling” isn’t one of fashion or feeling underappreciated. The fundamental pain of a baby sling isn’t much more than “ouch, my back,” and then, only when the sling doesn’t fit.

That’s the kind of pain Motrin can fix. That story isn’t as glitzy or clever, but it is authentic.

Do you like the woman in the ad?

Was she joking? Do new moms say stuff like that? Sure they do — with their friends — not with strangers. Friends can say things because friends already know that I love my kid no matter how I joke. Strangers can’t because they don’t.

Here’s where social media savvy comes in. A company has to be a friend before it can communicate with customers like friends. THAT’s the part about social media that Motrin didn’t get.

The Spectacular Opportunity

What would I advise the Motrin team to do? Get over being clever and get serious about learning. Here’s a short action plan.

  • Read enough to understand the mistake. A wise, open-mind doesn’t have to read long to see what went wrong.
  • Admit the mistake and apologize. Say thank you to folks who pointed it out.
  • Read everything — every tweet, post, conversation about it. Put several folks on knowing every blog and blogger, every tweet and tweeter. Respond with appropriate apologies and a beginner’s mind.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. Say thank you again.
  • Ask for help. Offer new moms a chance to make their version of what the ad might have been. Put serious resources at their disposal. Participate with time. Don’t just throw money at them.
  • Use as many of what they make as you can. Feature their ads on your site as big as your own. Pay the moms for their investment in you.

It’s a spectacular opportunity to learn social media and to turn critics into heroes. A company that does that with everyone watchng could win over the social web.

Got more ideas for how Motrin might recover from this?

–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!


  1. says

    All I can think is that *many* new moms who wear their babies are *probably* also nursing, or at least giving it a try. (Goes along with the whole idea of attachment parenting.) In which case ibuprofen is not the drug of choice… acetaminophen is. (At least according to what I was told both times.)

    A Google search shows that ibuprofen is considered safe, or at least minimally harmful, to a nursing infant… so it would be nice if Motrin addressed that issue, along with the pain!

  2. says

    Hey Christa,
    I know. Someone forgot to sit on the same side of the table as their customers and simply ask “What do they care about really and what would they like to know?” In their defense I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t made that mistake. We all lose sight of the people we’re doing things for.

  3. Elaine Luther says

    That ad is soooo offensive! I can’t believe it. Liz, you hit it exactly on why.

    As a dedicated baby-wearer of 5 years, everything about this ad is just wrong, wrong, wrong.

    My opinion of Motrin was neutral to good before, and now it’s bad, bad, bad.

  4. says

    The cuckoo clock at the end of the video is almost poetic. I don’t have children, but I know lots of moms – after watching the ad all I could think was “what? who are they talking to?”

  5. says

    I’m not even a mom and *I* was offended by the ad. “Wearing a baby makes you look like an official mom”? What?

    That comment stabs right into the heart of the insecurity issue you mention, Liz. Dood, if you give birth, you ARE an official mom. Ouch.

    To fix it, they’ve got to test their message with real, live people. People they think are likely to buy their product (demographics and psychographics) – and they clearly didn’t.

    They’ve got to address trends. Not just the surface-y baby-wearing trend; they didn’t acknowledge that dads are taking on a lot more of the tending and tip a hat to them, too.(There were a lot of pissed off dads on YouTube comments.)

    I liked the plan of action you described. The thing I’d add to it? Address it ASAP. Like today.

  6. says

    I agree with Jen here as well as you Liz. I am an official mom – not a baby wearer – but definitely a mom. And that ad was offensive to me.

    To imply that mom’s walk around looking crazy and tired – and that something as loving and as nurturing as baby wearing is simply a fashion statement – OY!

    Not to be redundant here, but they definitely missed the mark in a HUGE way.

    Whoever was in charge of that marketing missed the absolutely foundational concept of knowing your niche… geez… you can’t get through even a basic marketing class without learning that one.

    I love that action plan that you outline here Liz – it’ll be interesting to watch how this unfolds – and how they course correct at this point.

  7. says

    Well, I was always told as a writer to only write about what you have experienced. It seems to me like the person who designed this ad was not a mom nor understood the reasoning we moms use.
    At first look, the idea was intriguing-atleast they think it’s important to target moms! However, as already pointed out, they totally missed the ball.
    Had they started out with the reasons WHY a mom wears a sling, carries a baby, etc…and then said something like about how motrin could help the discomfort/pain of wearing a baby. They could have even addressed Dads…
    The opportunities of how they could have successfully marketed with this issue are immense and still possible but obviously weren’t used.
    This is really sad. Just sad.

  8. says

    Great Post and vision, I think too someone forgot to dig into foundational beliefs – that deep down inside stigma that pregnant women/new mom’s are somehow “air heads”…just like when people first meet me they think I am stupid.
    Skimming the surface with people inhibits the connections. I hope they will turn the commenters into hereos

  9. says

    Patricia, I think part of where that particular stigma comes from is knowing moms who “lost their heads” while pregnant. I for one had an incredibly hard time thinking during both pregnancies. Recent research showed that pregnancy does kill brain cells. Hormones themselves make us crazy (some of us, anyway. :) ) And they also make many of us shift our priorities.

    Notice, however, that I’m not generalizing. A freelance friend said she wrote the best story of her life while pregnant. She’s the only one I know who had that experience, but that doesn’t make it invalid. So the trick is to turn perceptions into experience (dig into why perceptions are the way they are), then turn experience to a way to empathize… even if it isn’t yours.

  10. says

    The Motrin mistake could be the best learning experience that ever happened to their team. How the respond will show who they are. The choices seem clear enough, but … some folks love their ideas more than learning.

  11. says

    I am fascinated by your suggestions for rehabilitation. To reach every blogger and tweeter would be a monumental effort. The outcry certainly was viral, so the apology will also need to be.

    It’s interesting to note that, as stated in their apology, this rolled out in print ads at the same time. Now women will be reminded of their negative feelings when they open magazines for a month or two. I wonder if a better marketing plan would have involved testing the waters online before committing to a print campaign.

  12. says

    The topic aside, that video was purely annoying!

    As a new Dad who is also a working Dad, balancing being the one taking care of the kid and my Internet consulting empire at the same time, this ad says nothing to me, and says they know nothing about their target audience (if they even had one).

    All they needed to say was something like “for the aches and pains that accompany the joy of being a Mom or Dad, there’s Motrin.” One thing I have learned about being a parent is that the experience is very unique for everyone, and some people get offended at the smallest thing, and others are not offended at the largest thing.

    But one thing I know is that a baby sling is not a namebadge… unless your name is Bjorn…


  13. says

    Hi threeundertwo,
    I’d bet if Motrin started trying to win back respect in the right ways, the community would get behind that effort — what mom doesn’t know the value of reinforcing good behavior? — I’d be the community would help them reach all of the offended bloggers who were reachable. :)

  14. says

    Hi Mike,
    My husband felt the same way — they were having too much fun with the idea and lost sight of the people they were trying to reach … It’s a human error that can happen when timelines are tight, revisions too frequent, or people are too focused on being part of the ideas.

    and it’s turned out badly every time I’ve seen it.

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