Over the weekend Motrin launched a viral ad campaign targeting Moms. The results were not good.
First, Moms all over the country started twittering about the campaign. Then, the groundswell hit and "Mommy" bloggers all over the world were weighing in. A bunch of angry response videos were posted YouTube, denouncing the ad. Finally, Motrin was forced to act and pulled down the ad. The damage had been done however, with the PR blow captured all over the web, including NY Times Motherload blog. Not only did Motrin fail to effectively address their target demographic, they may have in the process done real damage to the Motrin brand and how it is perceived by, arguably, the #1 influencer group when it comes to creating lifelong customers.
Jeremiah Owyang has a great analysis of the groundswell here.
What went wrong and what you need to know about it:
1) Motrin had NO idea who they were dealing with. They were targeting Moms in the 25-40 demographic, quite possibly one of the most active demographics in the social web. The team obviously didn't do their research and we're not monitoring key communities (or twitter for that matter) for reaction. By the time the Motrin team was aware it was already a PR nightmare.
2) Motrin was out of touch with their target market. Over and over again, I kept reading Mom blogs that said "If they had talked to me first...". I'm sure they ran the video against a focus group but I'm willing to bet that that focus group didn't comprise of too many of the types of Mom that were rallying against the ad on Saturday/Sunday. In short, their demographic based focus group did not match the technographic group responsible for the groundswell.
My conclusion is that it all boils down to a poor understanding of how to use social media for marketing. If you are using a focus group for a viral campaign you can't talk to the end person on the word of mouth chain, you have to know the people who propel that message out to their network of peers. Thus, you can't target Moms ages 25-40 and not know that "Mommy" bloggers are incredibly proud and aware of the choices they make as Moms. You have to pass the smell test with them if you want them to spread your assets to their peer groups. That done you have to live in their world online to monitor the response to your campaign and fix any issues before the grow out of control.
You may think you know your customers, but do you REALLY know the customer that is a key influencer online? Can you afford not to?