Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tweet Nazis

We recently had a conversation with a colleague who in the course of thirty minutes riffed three different ways he could make use of Twitter to help his client market their clothing line. And it was only 3 months ago that he and I had a conversation about Twitter, in which he decried it as a valueless fad.

Ah, the power of Twitter. And the power of three’s.

The kind readers of marketmambo may remember that Twitter was the past topic of a post. We too wondered at its long-term value, especially in light of the information saturation that has come to define our world. And it was our loving and insightful sister, Lena Mambo, that promised that in time, we would begin to understand the usefulness of broadcasting short (140 character max) messages from our phones.

And to total three Twitter moments of the past week we’d like to mention two other stories that have passed our desk.

A Tweet By Any Other Name

In September of this year, Yammer won the TechCrunch50 Award of $50,000 for best new tech product of the year. Yammer is a Twitter-like service, and in fact, think of it as Twitter with two important differences. First, unlike Twitter, Yammer allows for the Tweets (Yams?) to remain inaccessible to the general public. While my Tweets may go directly to my friends, they are also publicly posted on the Twitter website. The second difference between Twitter and Yammer is that Yammer has found a way to monetize their service, which, as of yet, has escaped Twitter. Some call Yammer “Twitter with privacy” some call it “Twitter with a business plan”. It is the lack of commercial viability that has prevented hard-core capitalists, such as my brother Miguel Mambo, from joining the ranks of the Twitter intrigued.

But we can also call Yammer “Twitter for Business’ because that’s the arena in which it has been most successful. It seems that companies are adopting Yammer as a way for coworkers to stay in contact, without ever raising a comment or query to the formality of email. Hence the value of its privacy feature. Yammer was created by a company called Genie for their own use, and they came to believe that it had potential as a product for other companies. Basic service from Yammer is free, and a more premium service is available for a fee.

If you're interested, click on the video below to see the Yammer's TechCrunch presentation.

News coverage of Yammer invariably explains it by reference to Twitter, as if it were possible to explain something that no one understands by comparing it to something that very few understand.

(As an aside, there are several other Yammer-like products growing in popularity with businesses, such as SocialCast and Basecamp, which makes us wonder if microblogging will ultimately make its home in the world of commercial organizations.)

Beat Me With Your Twitter Stick

Also in the past week we witnessed another of the accumulating cautionary tales of marketing in the Web 2.0 World: The Mugging of Motrin by Mothers.

Motrin recently began a campaign targeting mothers which has as its premise the pains created by the use of strap-on baby carriers. The creative alludes to these devices as a way to use a baby as a fashion accessory. We at marketmambo though it was clever, pleasantly constrained, and that it spoke in a voice we hear everyday from the many mothers in our life.

Please view the ad below.

But apparently there are a group of mothers that we don’t know who became outraged at the affront to the dedication of motherhood.

The offensive nature of the ads had gone unnoticed for several weeks until a posting appeared on a blog which mentioned the ads. A mother came across the posting and passed it to several other mothers. The inferno quickly found its natural home on Twitter.

The trade publication Advertising Age provided a timeline of the relevant events which demonstrate how quickly the Motrin mugging grew from a spark to a flame-over on Twitter.

9/30 J&J posts ad on Motrin.com
11/14 The ad is mentioned in a blog post with a comment that the mom in the ad is using her baby sling incorrectly.
11/15 An offended mom in Fort Collins, CO sees the post of the Motrin ad and posts a criticism on her own blog.
11/15 Another Colorado mom posts the first Tweet on Twitter at 10:28 pm.
11/15 A second mom posts a second Tweet at 10:58 pm.
11/16 The Motrin ad hits the top of Twitter trends with 1500 Tweets.
11/16 300 blog posts are written on the topic. Bloggers also begin to contact mainstream media.
11/16 A blogger posts a video of the anti-Motrin comments to YouTube. (See below)
11/16 J&J shuts down the Motrin website, removes the ad and issues an apology to the offended mothers.

We at marketmambo are still unable to feel the rage against the Motrin machine. Then again, we have never been accused of excessive sensitivity.

But we have championed the potential of technology to bring true value to its users and the potential of technology to create valuable relationships between companies and their customers.

It is horrifying for any marketer to see a mob of villagers approaching their brand with torches. In this case, we at marketmambo believe that the makers of Motrin surrendered much too quickly, lasting just three days under siege. For those of you don’t share our graying hair or spreading paunch, we must point out that Johnson & Johnson is the same company that so bravely and adroitly navigated the corporate crisis created by the Tylenol killings in 1982.

Some may say that the outrage was righteous, that it was an inspiring case of mothers taking it to the man. That may be true. Or maybe it’s the case of a handful of consumers, intentionally sparking the anger of a slightly larger handful, and using social media such as Twitter to mug an undeserving company.

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