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National Face Your Fears Day: Content Marketing & Social Media

October 13th, 2009 by

Time to chill out. Image from: SodaHead

In honor of National Face Your Fears Day, we’re going to dive into a topic some companies are facing: The dread of becoming a social media and web content horror story.

There are a lot of companies that want to jump into web content marketing and social media but have a crippling fear they are going to screw up – big time. You figure one wrong move and those finicky online hipsters will chew you up, spit you out and destroy all you worked for in one snarky move of the mouse.

If this sounds like you, you may need to chill out and gain some perspective.

While you should always aim to create smart content and to market it the best way possible (and working with an experienced content marketing agency will help you do that), the chances of your business being destroyed – or even maimed – from a misstep in social media is pretty low.

Want proof? Let’s look at a well-known flop: The Motrin Mom Ad.

Motrin and their ad agency, Taxi, decided they wanted to get the attention of a juicy market: The Modern Moms. This online campaign was designed appeal to the online mom / mommy blogger by keeping things light, conversational and dashing the ad with a bit of dry humor. Here it is:

Depending on where you fall on the Easily Offended Scale, the reactions to this clip may range from “That’s cute” to “Well, I wouldn’t have phrased it quite that way” to “FASHION ACCESSORY? FASHION ACCESSORY? HOW DARE THEY TRIVIALIZE MY LIFE?! BOYCOTT! BOYCOTT!”

The voices of the latter started to make rumblings about the online ad around November 14th, 2008. The topic caught on and a big wave of chatter crested on Twitter (and then blogs and then YouTube and then the media) on the weekend of November 18th and 19th (you can see a nice breakdown of the conversation numbers – with! graphs! – here at Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy).  Depending on the keywords used, there was something like 350 blog posts on the subject between November 14th through 16th and roughly 3,000 posts by November 18th. By that Monday, Motrin removed the online ads and had issued two apologies. Mommy bloggers counted it as a victory of the consumer taking down the big, bad, condescending company and the issue was largely dropped three days after it started.

You’re probably on the verge of screeching at the screen, “But that’s exactly the kind of thing I’m freaked about! How is THIS going to help alleviate my fears?!?”

One thing to do is keep things in perspective: Those 3,000 posts by November 18th were not all calls to action by angry mommy bloggers. Far from it. The majority of chatter was about the “Twitstorm” that had brewed. Much of it was a discussion by people like you and me who found the whole hubbub fascinating from a social media perspective and wanted to weigh in. Despite the noise, there was really only a relatively small number of boycott-demanders on the Easily Offended Scale.

Was it still embarrassing for Motrin? Sure. Did it destroy them? Well, let’s take a look:

Did people stop inquiring / looking for info about Motrin? Google says no (“E” indicates the Motrin Mommy controversy) – it’s business as usual (in fact, there’s a tiny increase):


Did Johnson & Johnson’s (makers of Motrin) stock plummet as a result of this scandal? (admittedly, J&J carries a tremendous amount of brands under it AND the stock market is hardly a smooth ride). The green dot indicates the time of this scandal. We don’t really see an impact (keeping in mind everything tanked early in 2009):


Did Motrin sales suffer as a result? Not from what we’ve seen. While we don’t have access to all the data, we did discover that Johnson & Johnson’s end-of-year 2008 OTC (over-the-counter) sales were up by 13% from the previous year:


Johnson & Johnson Investory Relations Deck

(while this post is not about that, take a look at that fugly slide. Looks like even they could use some advice on creating effective PowerPoint presentations!)

Did Motrin’s reputation get burned? Sure. For a short a while. But it also reached far more people with its message that its product could help moms (and others) with body pain than it would have without the controversy. But what’s more – Motrin gained an attentive audience looking to see what they’d do next (and we’ll tell you about that in another post!).They had an audience (albeit a cynical one) an opportunity to perform and the motivation (and likely decent corporate backing) to succeed in this new medium.

While you certainly shouldn’t be dismissive of the voices of your consumers (in fact, engaging with them presents great opportunities), you also shouldn’t avoid stepping into content marketing and social media because of overblown fears of a negative reaction. While your screw-ups present short-term anxiety and annoyances, they are indeed short-term (if the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that attention is fleeting).

Plus, every misstep presents an opportunity to redeem yourself – and we’ll talk about that next.

5 Responses to “National Face Your Fears Day: Content Marketing & Social Media”

  1. […] ideaLaunch Blog « National Face Your Fears Day: Content Marketing & Social Media […]

  2. […] recap: We’ve talked about how a social media misstep probably won’t kill you – or even have that much of an effect on your revenues. We’ve also discussed some of the first […]

  3. […] now, you’ve hopefully realized that a misstep in content marketing won’t wreck your bottom line and that there are things you can do immediately and long-term to recover (and even grow) from it […]

  4. […] may recall a recent post of ours that discussed the Motrin Moms fiasco where we demonstrated that a blunder in social media, while embarrassing, likely won’t affect […]

  5. […] your best to respond promptly and directly. An angry customer can stir up a lot of fuss via social media – don’t give it a chance to […]

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