Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Motrin

In The Wide Open Web Everyone’s Watching

As I wrote in my contribution to The Project 100, “we all have a role to play in the community.” It’s true we do. While it’s easy to jump all over a company’s mistake on the web, we also need to realize that un-constructive criticism and carrying pitch forks are not productive roles. But, too often like sharks that smell blood in the water, we hunt down the victim du jour and tear them apart. I’ve seen it happen so many times, with my favorite example being the Motrin Moms fiasco.

Well this weekend I got to watch another insane situation play out.  Rather than try and describe it, I’ll let you read the actual exchange between a Best Buy Customer and Barry Judge the CMO of Best Buy.

So let’s break this down and try to keep a level head:

  1. Barry is pretty well invested in the social space.  He has his own blog and openly tweets and interacts with colleagues, customers, etc.  For the most part he’s a shining example of why more C-level executives need to be engaging on platforms like twitter.
  2. Doug is more than a customer; he’s a pretty savvy guy who knows the power of social media.  That’s why he contacted Barry directly.
  3. Doug’s initial tweet could have been tempered to something like “Had an interesting recent situation with Best Buy. Online prices aren’t the same as in store.  Is that by design?”
  4. Barry clearly was irritated, but could have defused the situation by saying something to the effect of “140 characters is too short to discuss business rationale for this approach. will acknowledge in an upcoming blog post.”  Ideally, Barry would have gotten on the phone with Doug, but I’ have a better chance of hitting lotto than that happening.
  5. Barry goes on the defensive and reads into “tone.”  That’s a cardinal sin on the web.  Tone is the one thing you try to avoid getting wrapped up in because it’s nearly impossible to read it correctly.  My general rule of thumb is to assume positive intent.  Barry clearly wasn’t doing that.
  6. Where the situation gets funny and sad is after Barry realizes Doug not only knows retail, but knows Best Buy’s category inside and out.  So rather than engage with a worthy “adversary” Barry decides to get off one last zinger and then abandon the conversation.  I wonder if this is what happens in real meetings at Best Buy.

Regardless of who you think was right, the real take away here is that everything on the internet is viewable and shareable.  Assume that everyone is watching your every move.

I’m sure others will go all hyperbole and look at this as a lightening rod  for how bad Best Buy’s customer service (I mean obviously even the CMO doesn’t get it) and how Barry doesn’t get social media.  Others will go way off the deep end and demand a formal apology from Barry; guess what?  That’s not going to happen either.

As for me, I see this as a blip on the radar and nothing more.  Maybe Barry was having a bad day.  We’ve all had them.  Was he in the wrong on this one?  You bet.  Has he been wrong before?  Yes, absolutely.  Have I had first hand experience of him being less than “social” with me?  Definitely.  But, I have to say, his continued contributions in this space far outweigh (for now) his mistakes.  The web is a fickle place.  One minute you’re a hero and the next a villain.  While Barry Judge generally gets to play the role of hero, he was no doubt the villain in this situation.

As a side note….I think Doug is 100% in the right regarding pricing.  If you’re a click and mortar operation like Best Buy, the price should be the same online and in store for every product.  Even if you argue that e-commerce and traditional retail are different business models, the fact you can order online and pick up in store at the reduced price proves (in my mind) that Best Buy was most definitely in the wrong with their approach.

Guest Post – Should We Selebrate Errors?

I’m out on vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

In April 1985, the management of Coca-Cola announced a decision to change the flavor of its flagship brand. New Coke came in a new can, with updated red and silver graphics replacing the traditional red and white look. The rest is history: a large public outcry ensued and after 79 days the new was replaced with the old. This was 24 years ago. Now imagine what would happen if Coke would do the same in today’s world: Just like David Neeleman from JetBlue Coke’s management would have to apologize on any radio and TV station that wanted to hear from them. Just like Starbucks, they would have to create a newcokeidea.com. Just like Comcast, Coke would have to create @newcokecares. And just like many brands experienced, the public flogging would have been merciless, constant and extremely painful.

While we always ask brands to experiment and test, we have a schizophrenic relationship to mistakes: Deeply outraged and always ready to forgive. Mistakes happen in the land of endless possibilities all the time; the cultural mix is just too volatile. Everybody has to deal with the limits of political correctness, limits that continue to change and evolve. But, beware: if you cross that line of good behavior, taste and decent business practices, you better be prepared to present yourself as a shameful sinner.

The public expects the spectacle of admission and asking for forgiveness from the sinner. Just like a dog, craning his head away to display submission, it’s a spectacle that doesn’t change anything about the balance of power – but it’s a double dose of Valium for our religion-based psyche, asking for salvation that supposedly lurks around the corner. There’s a reason why self-help books were invented in the United States.

Fossils like Nixon or Rumsfeld didn’t get it when they proclaimed not to be crooks or didn’t admit any mistakes. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, remains one of the most popular Presidents, even though he lied about his affair until he finally asked for forgiveness. When you mess up, book yourself on Larry King and claim to be a changed person. As long as you’re not a heinous racist, people will forgive the poor sinner. Or better, the rich sinner.

Add to that a crumbling infrastructure and an economy constructed out of weak intellectual constructs based upon unproven theories. While advertising continues to showcase a perfect world, people have to deal with imperfect products and service. Europeans or Japanese wouldn’t put up with this for long. But we do. Piecemealing needs a lot of patience:

In my almost 30 years in Europe, I never experienced one blackout. Living in Los Angeles, we had at least 30 since I moved here. Phone companies that don’t show up for hours. Contractors that leave ruins behind. Customer Service agents barely able to speak English. Electronics that need to be returned to the store, just to malfunction again. And, at the end, agents ask you “Did we serve you well today?” Even though the answer is “Hell, no.”, the ritual remains the same.

The throwaway culture is so deeply ingrained that we don’t mind if a $300 camera stops working after 3 months. We just get a new one.

Just have a close look at contractors: There are no real standards, no training, no real foundation to be proud of your work. You can visit super-expensive homes and see shoddy craftsmanship when it comes to details. Such a tolerance for poor work standards allow for immense creativity when everything works out well. When it doesn’t, we always have this new tool of Web 2.0. Every time I go to Best Buy, I have a bad, bad, bad experience. But the Twitter existence of @bestbuycmo and my few exchanges with him lulls me into this idea that they really care. And they want to change. Or is it just enough to show the public that you’re reacting to criticism and we use this reaction as a Xanax to calm our anger? Sure, it’s nice that @richardbranson is on Twitter but he never answered any of my tweets when I asked him about the poor website experience that lead to a missed sale for Virgin Atlantic. And don’t get me started on Virgin’s Customer Avoidance program.

The advent of the Internet and especially Social Marketing tools have fundamentally changed the way brands deal with mistakes (Or issues, as the PR person loves to say.) But, in some ways, we have retreated to life in the Middle Ages: Public pillorying continues to thrive in the new marketing reality. Just ask Motrin. Or better, ask @scottmonty. He was one of the latest victims in a discussion about the usage of his private brand to shill ( I mean, work the Social Marketing angle) for Ford. @chrisbrogan had to deal with a lot of backlash for his Kmart promotion (And, yes,, I was one of many who thought he might have gone too far.) And, @keyinfluencer was treated as the second coming of Hitler when he made a stupid remark upon his arrival in Memphis. Everything brands and people do is inspected, dissected and torn apart. Everything is public now: your location on Google Latitude, your deepest secrets on @secrettweet and your beer pong pictures on Facebook that will cost you a job offer in the near future.

We are stumbling through this new reality, enabled by technology and embracing David Armano’s brilliant statement of “Always in beta.” It’s a mindset based in Silicone Valley where you start a company yesterday, go bankrupt today and start something new tomorrow.

Just look at startups: slap a ‘Beta’ on your site and when you have a bad user experience, point back to the beta sign and explain that it’s half-baked now but will be perfect at some unknown time. (Translated: never)And crowdsource the user to eliminate those bad experiences because the user knows better than anyone in the company anyway.

This mindset might have worked in the good times, it sure doesn’t work in recessionary times. Trust me, real life doesn’t have any beta. Failure is not an option when you have a family to feed. A mortgage to pay. This ideal of ‘Always in beta’ is the perfect mindset for Silicon Valley. But it’s a mindset that doesn’t connect with the majority of America.

However, this experimentation thing we work through every day has a huge effect on our lives: People are getting used to trying out things that are not ready for public consumption yet, things that don’t claim to be perfect. The idea of making mistakes because it is part of the process starts to become very common and a typical mindset in executive suites.

Just look at our economy: Nobody really knows what to do during the current crisis but, besides the dopes on CNBC, we’re okay as a country when Obama’s economic team tries out things nobody has ever done before. And, while we’re at it, let’s throw up www.recovery.org and make sure Obama joins the conversation soon to get a Twitter ovation that the government is right there with us. Hey, if it doesn’t work, somebody will come up with a new theory and we’ll try that again. Will real people are suffering, losing their houses and hope.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in the power of Social Marketing. I believe that traditional, one-way advertising is destined to fail in this new technology reality. But I want to see real change, not Twitter band-aids, I’m not interested to live in a Doritos world where amateurs are crowdsourced to be the advertising monkeys of big brands. Or Starbucks claiming to allow their customers to be part of the solution. And offer Folgers-style coffee 2 months later. All these crowdsourcing efforts push the responsibility for finding and mitigating mistakes to consumers. While, at the same time, decisions continue to be made top-down.

Let’s continue experimentation and testing, we desperately need it. But, at the same time, let’s build something solid and durable. Something that will stand the test of time and not crumble under pressure. That’s my biggest concern with the Kmart and SeaWorld experiments: They are just stopgaps. Nothing more. They don’t move us along to a new marketing reality where people are real participants and brands really listen and take people seriously.

Brands and fellow government, we do believe in the audacity of hope. We do think there’s change possible we can believe in. But, don’t use these tools to fool us again. To make us believe into this new world where we have a say and are part of the process. Just to be left out again.

We won’t be fooled again.

Uwe Hook is a Social Marketing non-expert who blogs at conversationagency.wordpress.com and twitters at @convagency

Motrin Part II

It’s about just over a week since Motrin-gate. Yes, it’s officially a “gate.” The dust has settled and here’s where we’re at.

Motrin issued an apology; I’m not surprised. The full text of the apology is:

Nov 20th

So…it’s been almost 4 days since I apologized here for our Motrin advertising. What an unbelievable 4 days it’s been. Believe me when I say we’ve been taking our own headache medicine here lately!
Btw – if you’re confused by this – we removed our Motrin ad campaign from the marketplace on Sunday because we realized through your feedback that we had missed the mark and insulted many moms. We didn’t mean to…but we did. We’ve been able to get most of the ads out of circulation, but those in magazines will, unfortunately, be out there for a while.

We are listening to you, and we know that’s the best place to start as we move ahead. More to come on that.

In the end, we have been reminded of age-old lessons that are tried and true:

When you make a mistake – own up to it, and say you’re sorry.

Learn from that mistake.

That’s all… for now.


Kathy Widmer
VP Marketing
McNeil Consumer Healthcare

The next thing to come will undoubtedly be an official mommy council/panel.

AdAge does a great job of chronicling the situation here.  The article will of course be taken shortly, so I’ll give you the best bits here.

Meanwhile, even some mommy bloggers saw signs the whole episode had hurt their community more than helped it. “Right or wrong, the rest of the web is now rolling its eyes, again, at our community,” Erin Kotecki Vest said on Nov. 17 at QueenofSpainBlog.com. “I’ll be honest, they are right. What happened this weekend went from smart, powerful activism to Palin-rally lynch mob.”

“We listened extensively to moms, the insights about their lives, and how their pain impacts them,” Ms. Presnal said, reading from Ms. Widmer’s e-mail. She continued from the e-mail: “I think where this went wrong was the creative expression we used. … The tone was intended to be real and lighthearted, but it came off as irreverent. … We did conduct focus groups with moms. But truthfully they probably weren’t extensive enough to uncover this.”

In fact, most online buzz about Motrin-gate was either positive or neutral in tone toward J&J and the ads, according to analyses by Tom Martin, president of Zehnder Communications, New Orleans, and Lexalytics.

Meanwhile, the core group behind the Twitter storm numbered in the low four figures. A Google search on Monday indicated around 4,000 tweets on Twitter, and analyses by Mr. Martin using Radian6 data and by Lexalytics suggested around 1,500 tweets involving around 1,000 individuals using the #motrinmoms hash tag.

Can you believe the insanity of this situation? Can you believe the power the internet and social media has?

There are several key takeaways for me.

  1. You can’t please everyone.  There will be critics of the work you do and they are often the people who scream the loudest.
  2. Have a disaster plan ready to launch should the need arise.
  3. Keep site of the big picture; was yanking all the work and incurring the expenses to do so really worth it to appease a sliver of a fraction of your audience?  I can’t answer that one for Motrin; only they know the answer.
  4. Every company should have someone (internal or external) who is responsible for all things social media.  If Ford can do it, so can everyone else.

This was a classic tempest in a teacup situation that 5 years ago we’d have never known about. However, we operate in a different world right now. With internet penetration in the U.S. above 90% of all households, nearly everyone is connected. The web provides a mechanism for things to accelerate quickly. In general I believe we need to be actively listening, monitoring, and communicating. I think Motrin did a great job of doing the listening and the communicating, but did a poor job at the monitoring. Had they monitored better they might have been able to temper the situation. The key word is “might.” Personally, I think that when people have an axe to grind, their going to grind that axe into the ground.

The one thing I do hope is that marketers don’t look upon this situation as a reason not to invest in social media. This was only 1 example of social media that backfired. There are so many GREAT examples of companies that have successfully invested in social media. Your company could be next.

Motrin And Moms

I haven’t been this fired up in weeks.  There’s a little shit storm brewing online (it’ll spew over into the offline world this week) because of this Motrin ad that appeared on the new Motrin web site:

To keep this simple, so that I don’t waste any more time than needed on a silly subject, the following happened:

  • Motrin posted the above ad on their site
  • Jessica (correct on 11/17) Gottlieb, who’s twitter profile states she’s “Easily outraged, often wrong, seldom apologetic” was asked to check out the new Motrin.com, which features the ad
  • She, as you might imagine, was offended and decided to take some action via twitter
  • People following her on twitter, like a lynch mob, grabbed their virtual pitchforks and demanded retribution; these moms got royally buggered by the ad (for the record my wife and mother of our child didn’t)
  • They were buggered because they believe that slings are not an in-vogue fashion accessory

Yes, I’m serious…no really I am.

All the “experts” and “thought leaders” have started weighing in.

Motrin capitulated, took their site down,and apologized to the 1% of moms (estimating here) that were buggered.  You can engaged with Motrin directly, via twitter, if you want to ad in your $0.02.

OK, so those are the facts, albeit with a little bit of ‘tude in the there.  This is so completely ridiculous.  As a dad, marketer,and interactive “thought leader” (I’m quoting someone here) I’m appalled, saddened, frightened, vindicated, and excited.  Let me address them one-by-one.

  • Appalled: People have already started speculating on who will get fired.  Will it be the brand manager?  The CMO?  The agency?  It’s disgusting.  People always want to point a finger and look for someone to blame.  How about instead of trying to get people fired, we look for ways to constructively communicate with Motrin?  They’re on twitter?  It’s not like you can’t talk with them.
  • Saddened: Motrin’s good intentions have gone to waste.  The 1% of hyper-connected opinion makers have potentially killed an ad that might connect really well for the other 99% of people in their target.  Surely, they tested the ad with ASI-IPSOS or a similar format.  Clearly it tested well.  If it didn’t you can bet no CMO worth their 18-month average tenure would have signed off on it.
  • Frightened: When things like this happen, it makes it 1,000s of times tougher for agencies to convince brands that they need to take chances, try to connect with their base/community, open up a dialogue, and the obligatory leverage social media/web 2.0.  I’ll bet you there were no less than a dozen projects killed this morning in light of this blow up.
  • Vindicated: This certainly proves the power of the web and social media.  It proves that twitter can be a tremendous force.  For all the people, brands, and clients that sometimes thought it was all rhetoric, well here’s your proof. Unfortunately, it proves the concept, but doesn’t make clients feel any more comfortable about investing in this area.
  • Excited: I don’t want to share too much just yet.  However, this whole situation really supports the POV I wrote for The Project 100.  We all have a role to play in the community.  We all have a voice.  What we decide to do with that voice will ultimately determine how company’s choose to invest in the future.  When things like this happen because of how we used our voice, it makes companies less willing to create tools like Nike+.  After all, why take on the risk?  No sense it creating a conversation, is there?

Ads are designed to connect with the majority.  They are designed to connect with a certain target.  No one expects them to connect with every single person.  We’d love them to, but it never happens.  When they don’t connect, no one is more disappointed than then brand, because it affects their bottom line directly.  But, we, as a community NEED ads.

Do you realize that if companies stopped spending money on ads we wouldn’t have TV shows to watch, radio stations to listen to, websites to visit, or magazines to read.  Sure, there might be a few that exist because they’re government or publicly funded through donations.  But, for the most part you’d be left with little to no programming.  Yes, that’s an extreme point of view and one not likely to happen in the near future.  However, I think it puts a nice little exclamation point on my perspective.

I love the passion of these people that so ticked with Motrin.  I’d love to see it used to drive real change on real problems, like:

  • Battered/abused women
  • Healthcare coverage
  • Newborn screening
  • More maternity and paternity time off

The point of my post today is: remember that while you have a voice, you need to use it responsibly.  It’s really no different than having free speech, but then electing to yell out fire in a movie theater, when one doesn’t exist 🙂  It’s not only irresponsible, it’s illegal.