Many of us grew up in a society where the consumer mantra was always caveat emptor – let the buyer beware. Beware for the world was filled with unscrupulous marketers and businesses that would rapidly remove hard-earned cash from your pockets and fill them with cheap products that didn’t work as promised , or deliver as required.
The world is changing rapidly, and the old maxim of caveat emptor is rapidly changing into a new warning of caveat venditor – let the seller beware. Today’s consumer no longer is powerless to change things, upset them, fail to deliver on your promises, anger them and you will find the tides of enterprise rapidly shift against you. Upset enough of them, and the world as you know it may come crashing down on you.
This weekend it happened to the makers of Motrin. They developed what I am sure both they and their ad agency thought was a “cute” ad that promoted their product by poking fun at mothers and baby carriers (Marketing 101 - never make fun of mothers or their children – very bad idea). What happened was a literal firestorm of consumer action in the form of extremely negative feedback from consumers (many, but not all mothers) on blogs, Twitter and even in at least one case a 9 minute “protest video.”
If you are on Twitter, check out the hash tag #motrinmoms, there are literally hundreds of postings about the offending ads. By Sunday evening, close to 70 blog postings had been tracked mentioning it. The video poster/blogger Katja Presna received an apology from the VP of Marketing - Pain, Pediatrics, GI, Specialty at McNeil (the makers of Motrin), and the Motrin web site had been completely taken down.
I think McNeil got the message, unfortunately, there was much more they could have done to avert this disaster, and they could have been a part of the conversation rather than just sent out an email to one of the bloggers. In the new age of Caveat venditor, if you are the seller, be prepared to play by the new rules. They are:
- Think before you act – the consumer is watching and if they don’t like your actions, they will report on it (via email, blog, micro-blog, video, pod-cast and other social communications tools yet to be developed. Ask a simple questions, “if I was my consumer would l like the action I am about to take”?
- Listen – there is a global conversation happening and some of the talk is about you. Good or bad, you must know what is being said and you must be listening. Do you know the places where the conversation is occurring? Do you have a method and a plan for gathering the rivers of conversation that pertain to you? You should.
- Converse – You must be part of the conversation. This doesn’t mean you get to control it and it doesn’t mean you get to advertise in it. The great part about today’s social media world is that it is like a giant cocktail party and everyone is welcome as long as they obey the norms of the group. As a participant you will reap much in the way of rewards that go beyond anything you would find in any other one-way customer communications medium.
- Learn – No one has yet figured out this massive new world. The great opportunity is if you participate now, you get to learn along with the others who are developing this new field. The only failure will come from failing to participate.