Four years ago it was Motrin-gate – the argument over whether Johnson & Johnson over-reacted when it pulled a Motrin ad campaign aimed at relieving the back pain suffered by Moms who carry their babies in a sling.
Today it's BIC's turn as it markets in the UK a pink and purple "for her" pen that is "designed to fit comfortably in a woman's hand." It has spawned an outburst of social media protest from women -- and some men -- who call the product and its marketing sexist.
Much of the reaction has been a series of sarcastic reviews on Amazon UK ridiculing the concept and the product, such as: "Before these pens, I was nothing. I was a mere inconsequential woman, stumbling around writing nonsense with big pens that made me look ridiculous. But now... the whole world looks different. I cannot recommend this pen enough. It won't just change your handwriting. It will change your life."
BIC's response has been cautious but supportive of its product. A spokesperson issued this statement: "It is great to see people having fun with the product and we're delighted to have brought a bit of much-needed glamour to stationery cupboards everywhere."
At CommCore we remind our clients that communicating via social media – especially when marketing – is a double-edged sword because it means giving up control of the message to the whims and fancies of bloggers and posters who share and comment. On the other hand it can yield a huge amount of free publicity. The key, we advise, is close non-stop monitoring of the social media tide, and prompt engagement by the brand as necessary.
And as they say, you hope they spell your name right. In the case of BIC, that's easy.