Johnson & Johnson took a stick and whacked a hornet’s nest over the weekend. They released a viral video ad featuring a story of a new mom using one of those sling devices to carry around her baby and how it was making her back hurt so she took Motrin (a J&J product) to relieve the pain while still looking trendy. Bam! Angry moms rose up, primarily on twitter with the hashtag #motrinmoms.

I saw the video and didn’t see what the big deal was, which actually underscored the primary point of the critics who said the ad must have been created by a bunch of men who not only didn’t talk to any pregnant women or women with newborns, but apparently didn’t know they existed. Me, being a man, am therefore unqualified to offer any critique of the video… how’s that for sexism.

I did ask my wife about it, and to fully disclose her bona fides, she is indeed a woman, has been pregnant 3 times and is currently in possession of a newborn. She laughed, thought the video was good satire… further added “that Motrin is good stuff”.

200811181130.jpg Motrin took notice of the angry mob and did what most consumer facing brand companies do, someone fell on their sword. Impressively, their apology, offered by a woman VP of Marketing I will note, has been running on their Motrin site for 2 days now.

So kudos to J&J for quickly acting on this issue. I’ll sidestep the whole “up to the moment the video was released” part of the story, which would have offered J&J an opportunity to avoid controversy in the first place, focus instead on the importance of disaggregated social media channels for consumer brand companies.

Despite how critical this is becoming, few companies have really figured this out and that means there is a tremendous amount of opportunity for a second wave to attack the beach. Companies like Buzzlogic Buzzmetrics and Umbria (now part of Nielsen and JD Power respectively) attempted to monitor brands programmatically, and it proved to be a complex problem, something a hell of a lot more complex than setting up a bunch of Google News Alerts.

At it’s heart, brand monitoring is a collection of problems that attempt to differentiate signal to noise, assign authority, and determine sentiment and other language attributes important to context. There are also additional opportunities around compilation of demographic data as represented by the people who are talking about your brand.

The amount of content and number of sources has grown exponentially in recent years, making traditional “clipping services” obsolete and relatively useless in today’s world. Further challenging the people focusing on this part of the marketing services industry, the content that is being generated often lacks context in that it is either a comment on a blog, a link to an unrelated source, or worse, 140 character twitter messages. You don’t get a lot of context in 140 characters.

All things considered, this is hard stuff that relies on a lot of data inputs in the form of content and some not insignificant technology to process the content once you have it, but the representation of that relevant content in a form that is actionable is perhaps the most vexing part of the challenge. You can present a lot of data about a brand to a client, and perhaps even tell them what it means, but doing so in a way that is efficient and conducive to taking action upon that information is a challenge all consumer brands are struggling with.

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