Social media is the buzz phrase of marketers. From MySpace to YouTube to IdeaStorm and The Members Project, brands are working hard to find ways to engage and involve customers. And with every success there are missteps to learn from as well. Some so subtle that at first blush (pun to come) it's not clear why some campaigns hit a nerve and others languish. We learned of Neutrogena's The Big Blush contest, which promotes their mineral sheers blush, through Daily Candy. The idea, submitting embarrassing stories for others to vote on, sounded kind of interesting. Once we got past the oddly flirty virtual hostess, we clicked straight to Rate A Blushing Moment and checked out the top ten. One that got a "Wow" rating - the most embarassing edge of the scale - was a woman from Texas who admitted - gasp! - that she blushes every time someone compliments her. Other stories were equally tame and reminiscent of the kind of embarassing moments shared in Seventeen Magazine circa 1986. What was going on here? The clue was in the submission rules which prohibited most of the language and situations typically involved in really embarrassing moments. Understandable that Neutrogena wants to protect its brand but these "cleaned up" moments lack real interest and feel false, particuarly in an era where risque photos are a standard element of most MySpace profiles and being photographed with undergarments missing is a rite of passage for many celebs (and seems to have no effect on jogging their memories to don said undergarments for future outings). While less extreme situations may be blushworthy, it makes Neutrogena seem more than a bit out of touch to not acknowlege that cultural shift, even if only to poke fun at their own rules - "sorry people, but we've got to keep it clean." A minor change that could have made a big difference in making the brand feel relevant, without having to compromise it's values.