Moms Sling Back
This week the McNeil Consumer Division of Johnson & Johnson decided to pull a web video that recommended Motrin for baby sling back pain. Mommy bloggers decried the spot as everything from anti-mom to boycott-worthy. McNeil’s VP posted an apology that they meant to illustrate empathy toward Mom’s pain.
Since the blogosphere is still bristling with plenty of mom commentary, I’ll stick to marketing observations about what might have gone wrong. In full disclosure, we have consulted for Mom’s Motrin in the past and yet are always more beholden to women’s truths.
Five Reasons Why J&J’s in a Sling over the Ad
1. Snark, not sympathy: The tone of voice, particularly in absence of any human visuals, was more flip sitcom than best friend, mocking something that’s close to the bone for moms.
2. Right pain, wrong reason: There are a million other ways that young moms get back strain, like inserting car seats or carrying strollers down stairs, that wouldn’t have hit the bonding or persona pothole.
3. Blaming a product that’s her fave: The freedom of slings outweighs their burden. Wrong enemy.
4. Challenging her authenticity: The sarcastic ‘official Mom’ line threatens what’s already a sometimes conflicted identity. She’s got enough critics, without a pill piling on.
5. Off strategy: Motrin moms are very in charge of their choices. This spot suggests a whiner, not the way the brand or moms identify.
Seeing this, I said to myself, “This was written by a young urban female copywriter who has just had a baby”. Bingo, at least on the new mom front. Liz from Mom-101 divulged that the writer no longer works for the ad agency because she’s on maternity leave. Maybe it was a lucky guess, but I could hear the voice of someone writing about something she’s still figuring out herself. Navigating the tricky mom landscape takes some learning. Yet the lower cost production and quick uploading of web creative might be luring marketers into skipping research.
I hope that this mis-step doesn’t scare other marketers from connecting in a real, even risky way with today’s moms, out of fear of blogger blowback. But be sure to listen hard before you leap, especially online, where moms take note, take names and spread the word, for better or for worse.
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