Can a savvy, musical social media campaign repair bad customer relationships?

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Today, I’m going to do something I never thought I would do when I started this blog.

I’m going to talk about tampons and social media.

Somewhere, my parents just flinched.

Don’t worry. We’ll keep it tasteful.

The Problem

For the last few years, the world has apparently suffered a terrible shortage of o.b. tampons and the discontinuation of the Ultra size.

For guys or women who don’t use these products, the Ultra was the largest size previously made by o.b., which is a sub brand of the Johnson & Johnson empire.

I say terrible because during this dark time, bidding for Ultra o.b. tampons apparently went up to $99 a box on ebay.com:

o.b. Ultra Tampon Box
That is $5.50 per tampon. Madness.

To put that in perspective, they normally retail for less than $10 a box in Canada.

You know you have a kickass product when your customers will pay 10 times its value on the black market to keep using the brand they like and, most importantly, trust.

If you have ever had a period during a command-performance situation, you know trust is a huge component in a woman’s decision to use any given product. For more on this topic, see Carrie or the collected works of Judy Blume.

I’m not going to talk about the motivations or details behind this evidently bad business decision. I don’t work for o.b. and, having been pregnant and caring for an infant for the last year, their products and any related shortages in my neck of the woods didn’t register on my radar.

If you want to read more about it, I suggest the consumer protest site. You can also wade through some of the articles I found through a Google News search over the past year (see links above).

I think we can agree that whatever the background to the decisions and shortage, something needed to be done because o.b.’s customers have been so vocal about their demand to have Ultra tampons back on store shelves.

The Solution: A Musical Number

To o.b.’s credit, they listened and came up with a musical apology:

Coupon download at end of o.b. apology video
Closing image of the video apology. Note the double rainbow meme reference.

Why is this campaign great?

  1. It’s funny.
  2. It acknowledges the problem, but keeps the apology — not excuse making — front and centre. The whys don’t matter now. Fixing the problem does.
  3. It foregrounds social sharing. There appears to be no link to the video apology on the main site. I was sent a link by my colleague Nicolle (@NicolleWahl if you don’t already follow her). The Facebook and Twitter links in the bottom right are share options, not redirects to other pages. This design implies the campaign will live on social sharing and media mentions alone.
  4. It is customizable at five different points in the video, which is more expensive to do than one shoutout in the beginning. This effort adds weight to the message — we, o.b., apologize to YOU, the consumer:
    Girl, we are so sorry we hired a plane to write your name in pixels on this screen.
    Girl, we are so sorry we hired a plane to write your name in pixels on this screen.
    We are so sorry, we rented a hot air balloon with your name on it.
    We are so sorry, we rented a hot air balloon with your name on it.
    Nothing says sorry like a personalized tattoo
    Nothing says sorry like a personalized tattoo
    Second reference
    We are so sorry, we sacrificed 50 roses.

    First customized video reference
    This song is for you, random customer.
  5. It subverts traditional marketing for feminine products. UbyKotex has also used this tactic well:
  6. It ends with a $2.00 off coupon, giving some financial teeth to the apology.

My Caveat

Given o.b.’s tradition of offering free samples to women who have never used their product, I am surprised that they didn’t make the coupon good for a free box or a buy-one-get-one deal. Maybe their bottom line didn’t support such generosity to annoyed customers.

Whatever their reasons, I’m even more surprised that the “try our product for free” feature is still posted on their website, but disabled (thanks, Lanna, for that catch):

Lame, o.b.. Really lame. Just take it down if you are not offering this deal.
The fine print says the offer has expired, but thanks you for your interest. Lame, o.b.. Really lame. Just take it down if you are not offering this deal.

Weird, right? Especially since there is an embedded button on every single page of their microsite advertising this deal.

One would think that this particular duck would be lined up with all the others given the boost in web traffic o.b. is likely trying to achieve through this campaign.

Regardless, the musical campaign has already netted traditional media attention.

Time will tell whether o.b. will be equally successful at repairing its brand image and relationship with its customers.

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