Motrin: Where’s the authentic voice?


Earlier I posted about the Motrin kerfuffle and the opportunity it presents brand owner McNeil to listen to customers and engage with them.

Reading the apology text again that McNeil posted on the Motrin home page (above), there are a few things about it that bother me.

First of all, it’s an image not text you can select, copy and then paste. That means less chance for the words to be reproduced elsewhere as part of others’ citing that apology. Not a good move.

Secondly, and maybe quite telling, is the image file name: ‘marketing_message.jpg’ (you can see the file name if you hover your mouse over the image on the Motrin website, right-click, choose ‘Properties’: the resulting dialogue box shows the name.)

So it’s a marketing message and, from how the wording looks, probably whipped up by someone who then got marketing VP Kathy Widmer’s approval (it’s her name on the apology) and then passed on to the folks who manage the website to create the image and post it.

Wildly guessing here of course but it would not surprise me if that is more or less what happened.

But how disappointing! That’s not an apology that would stir your heart and think they mean it. That’s an apology that looks like a marketing message (that file name…) which adds insult to injury.

What I think would have done wonders for Motrin and McNeil (and Widmer: just look what you get if you do a Google search for ‘Kathy Widmer’ right now) would have been a genuine personal message written by Widmer. A message you could actually believe in.

Maybe something like the different message sent to a Forbes magazine blog from Johnson & Johnson, the owner of McNeil:

I am the Vice President of Marketing for McNeil Consumer Healthcare.  I have responsibility for the Motrin Brand, and am responding to concerns about recent advertising on our website.  I am, myself, a mom of 3 daughters.

We certainly did not mean to offend moms through our advertising.  Instead, we had intended to demonstrate genuine sympathy and appreciation for all that parents do for their babies.  We believe deeply that moms know best and we sincerely apologize for disappointing you. Please know that we take your feedback seriously and will take swift action with regard to this ad.  We are in process of removing it from our website.  It will take longer, unfortunately, for it to be removed from magazine print as it is currently on newstands and in distribution.

Better but still a bit starchy and impersonal. What about an authentic voice?

Here’s my suggestion, Kathy:

  1. Get the marketers and PRs out of the way
  2. Write a text yourself
  3. Publish it

It’s not too late.

[Later] It looks as though something that embraces those three points has happened with a post by Kathy Widmer on JNJ BTW, Johnson & Johnson’s corporate blog.

In the post – dated yesterday but without a publishing time (just like this blog) – Widmer’s conclusion is especially worth reading:

[…] One bright spot is that we have learned through this process – in particular, the importance of paying close attention to the conversations that are taking place online. It has also brought home the importance of taking a broader look at what we say and how it may be interpreted.

That’s encouraging.

Related post:

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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