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11/30/2008 Motrin and Burton


I’ve been watching two customer generated protests unfold over the last two months, one online and one offline; one hugely successful, one not so successful; one driven by consumers and another driven by interest groups.

Motrin and Burton Snowboards both found themselves faced with an angry public. But the cases couldn’t be more different.

Motrin had posted an ad aimed at young moms. Their goal, apparently, was to connect with the challenges of young mom-hood and offer a solution. Motrin’s hip, typestyle driven online ad tried to bond with young moms with the inside scoop that carrying babies in slings or Baby Bjorns might make them feel like good moms, but that it gave them a pain in the back. Motrin to the rescue!

Unfortunately the audience, those young, online, urban moms, felt like Motrin didn’t get it at all. Believe it or not, the moms carried their babies like that because they liked to, it freed up their hands, made their kids feel better, and didn’t really hurt that much. But they didn’t like feeling talked down to. So they Twittered and e-mailed Motrin to death, and won. Motrin took down the ad and apologized.

Lesson 1: When your target customer is upset, you better listen!
Lesson 2: If your customer is online, you better move fast!

The other example is the brouhaha up in Vermont about the Burton Love Snowboards. Burton released a couple of boards with old Playboy centerfolds on them. One board had cartoon drawings on top of the picture.

BurtonLoveBoards

That caused a group in Burlington to hold protests outside of Burton’s headquarters. It called Burton “pornographers.” And it forced members of the city council to pass a resolution calling on Burton to “talk with” the protesters (counselors voted down a more adamant resolution). The group wanted Burton to withdraw the boards from the market.

In Burton’s case, the people protesting were not the people buying the boards. The Love boards were for a younger, male demographic, and after the protest, they're apparently selling out in light speed. And Burton, always a big supporter of youth programs and women’s program, was put on the defensive, enough so that both Jake Burton Carpenter and his wife Donna responded in not-so-nice tones in this week’s local rag.

The Burton protesters were all offline – a search on Twitter reveals almost nothing. They weren’t customers and they weren’t able to generate any of the parodies you see on YouTube about the Motrin campaign.

Maybe they were too serious in their protests. Maybe they were too extreme in calling Burton “pornographers.” Or maybe, they just didn’t matter and couldn’t master the technology.

Lesson 3: You don’t need to listen to anyone and everyone.

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