Nov 16, 2008

Did Motrin Suffer From NASCAR Blindness?

So just about every blogger even remotely associated with the marketing and PR industries has done a post about the whole Motrin/Twitter/MommyBlogger controversy, many of which can be summed up as “they should have been monitoring the conversation.” Which is akin to saying “they should have been monitoring the Japanese air force” on December 8th, 1941.

(For those of you who missed it: Motrin ran a tongue-in-cheek spot about pain caused by “babywearing” (carrying the baby in a sling or similar contraption) which pissed the living daylights out of many mommy blogger types who took off after them on Twitter and then all hell broke loose with rebuttal videos posted to YouTube and the aforementioned blogosphere chiming in.)

But what I see here is yet another case of NASCAR Blindness, of a marketer not realizing that different things have different meanings and different ramifications, depending on the circles you travel in and that not everyone is on the same page about child rearing.

To wit: I schlepped both kids around in one of those Baby Bjorn contraptions as did just about everyone else I know. (My oldest is now 10, so it's not like it's a new trend either.) Living in Manhattan, in particular, it was just easier to get around without having a lug a baby carriage down into the subway. But I’d never encountered the term “babywearing” until today.

Investigating further, I discovered that “babywearing” refers both to average schlubs like myself and to people who subscribe to a somewhat controversial theory called “attachment parenting.” More importantly (here’s where the NASCAR Blindness comes in) I found that to many people, anyone with a sling or a Bjorn is a “crunchy granola” or “hippie type” with all the accompanying stereotypes.

Which leads to a good deal of sensitivity and defensiveness of the part of babywearers in those parts of the country where a Bjorn is seen as evidence of a hidden passion for hairy legs and tie-dye and where attachment parenting is viewed as suspect at best.

And that’s something Motrin and its agency should have picked up on: a quick glance at any of the major mommy boards will reveal that there are a number of topics that readily lead to heated vituperative battles of the sort usually found around issues like abortion and the death penalty. And that few of the combatants have anything resembling a sense of humor. They feel judged, they feel embattled and the last thing they need is some drug company poking fun at them. Good-naturedly or otherwise.

The fact that this all broke out on Twitter is a sidebar. The bigger issue is being blind to things that may seem benign to you but are in fact trigger points to a vocal segment of your audience.

And that's something we need to monitor on a more regular basis.

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