Don’t mess with Mom, especially if she is on Facebook


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal shows the perils, real or imagined, of product flaws in this emerging age of social media. Proctor & Gamble is a highly admired company especially for its careful stewardship of its many premier brands. Can it be that any American mother, in a word association game, would not tell you that Pampers equates to diapers?

Imagine the horror of the brand managers for Pampers when Roshana Shah opened a Facebook site to campaign against P&G’s recent market launch of Dry Max diapers. As the WSJ article states, this is not the only site to open up in complaint of the new design. In reading some of the recent posts, there are a lot of very unhappy moms out there. P&G is fighting back in what may be a risky approach with some discrediting of the posters and leaders of this movement. Will it work? Time will tell.

But P&G is pursuing some very positive approaches as well. They are not unaware of the power of social media. Before the product launch, P&G developed a network of Mommy bloggers to sample and test their new design. Seems like a pretty savvy move to me. They also have their own Facebook page for Pampers that states its mission as “Caring for Babies’ Happy, Healthy Development.” The site is filled with tributes and stories of Motherhood. P&G also allows posters to complain and many complaints as well as supportive posts are to be found on the site. It is really amazing. It is also a rich source of data. But how to sort through it all and make sense of it?

Manufacturers are just now learning how to manage social media as a marketing medium. On the one hand, you want as much control over your messaging as possible but you cannot appear insensitive to customers with complaints. You certainly don’t want to be perceived as attacking your customers. You want to quickly correct the product if it has a defective design or manufacturing process but you don’t want to admit too much lest you end up with class action lawsuits and more brand erosion.

Part of learning social media in your marketing mix means learning how to apply the right technology to the data within these sites. Ben Parr, Co-Editor of Mashable, is one of many experts beginning to write about the need for social media analytics. He admits his post of a year ago is primarily a “beginner’s guide,” and I would agree as his suggestions for analysis are to import data into Excel and sort it. Sounds painful and a bit more like categorization, not analytics.

So what can be learned from this diaper saga? Here are 5 things I think P&G could do better if they had true social media analytics:

  1. Compare sentiment towards Pampers today to before the launch
  2. Predict changes to sentiment based on any actions they might take
  3. Track sentiment as they take action
  4. Compare sentiment on new media sites versus sentiment on traditional media sites.
  5. Understand true levels of authority and influence of sites and individuals disparaging the brand.

The way ahead for social media analytics involves robust data acquisition, text analysis, sentiment analysis, predictive analytics, and dashboards with drill-down. Here is a great example of social media analytics on YouTube.

Meanwhile, as a new grandfather who has only just resumed changing diapers, I am going to be earnestly following this diaper story and discussing the finer points of diaper technology with my two new Moms. Won’t they be surprised?


About Author

Michael Newkirk

Director, Industry Practices, Global Sales Support and Enablement

As Director, SAS Industry Practices, Mike Newkirk’s team is responsible for driving the development of industry-specific strategies, enablement, messaging and positioning of SAS solutions in the Government, Education and Financial Services sectors.

1 Comment

  1. Michael Newkirk on

    It has been 6 weeks or so since I posted this and P&G is still taking it on the chin. This recent story on is just one of many out there:
    The P&G Facebook page I referenced now has 11,000 fans and some of their posts attract over 300,000 comments/likes! Is social media analysis important to your customer satisfaction and retention? Oh yes. Will P&G recover? Oh yes. They are too good a company not to and they will learn valuable lessons. We should learn from watching them! Analytics can help find emerging issues filtering out the noise. Humans simply cannot patterns that are meaningful early enough to take action. Imagine that P&G's problem is a design formulation error on the coatings. It would have been far less costly to have only produced 5 million diapers as opposed to 50 million before they found that out. Using analytics on your social media data is cutting edge now; few are doing it. This isn't a "vision" thing, it's a science thing. It finds problems that your marketers, engineers and scientists need to know about -- the earlier the better. It not only benefits your marketing, but your design engineers and manufacturing engineers. If you are making something and selling to consumers, social media analysis is a must.

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