Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

26 May 2010

Tylenol and J&J should start brand repairs now

“We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services. In meeting their needs everything we do must be high quality….”

The above quotation is taken directly from Johnson and Johnson’s corporate credo.  As you have seen Tylenol, McNeil, and J&J have been in the news quite a bit with the “voluntary” recall of Children’s Tylenol, Zyrtec, Motrin, and Benadryl. These products were recalled after issues with their quality were raised.  Now the FDA is investigating nearly 800 “adverse events” that may have been caused because of a recalled product.

“Johnson and Johnson failed in executing its brand. Its failure was not a single event, but a series of events in which it seemed to do the exact opposite of what its credo says.”

jjredIt is not uncommon event to have product recalls.  Usually strong companies can rebound from them.  But this one is a bit different.  These quality problems did not just happen this year or at a single point in time.  There have been quality concerns since 2008 when J&J/McNeil started getting complaints about odors in its products.  Now, there are new allegations that McNeil did not adequately and thoroughly cooperate with the FDA and that failures in quality since 2008 were not resolved or taken seriously.

Regardless of what happens in subsequent senate hearings and court room dramas one thing is sure:  Johnson and Johnson failed in executing its brand. Its failure was not a single event, but a series of events in which it seemed to do the exact opposite of what its credo says.  This is more than a tarnished image this is failure of a brand.

This failure  shows yet again how deeply brand must be infused in an organization for it to work.  Not so different than BP who talked a good game, so too now has Johnson and Johnson found itself in the same position.  If J&J really lived their credo and brand of responsibility to those who use their products, these quality issues would have been investigated and resolved before two years and  775 “adverse events” had occurred.

McNeil announced today that they are taking steps to bring quality “back to a level … that Johnson & Johnson demands of its companies” no doubt under pressure from J&J which raises the question, if quality is your brand, how did it decrease so that it needed to be brought “back to a level?”  Moreover, this is Johnson and Johnson’s problem, not McNeil’s.  J&J bore the responsibility of quality oversight (especially since it is their brand) and failed.  The FDA letters were coming to J&J after all.

J&J must begin to repair its brand now.  This goes way beyond it repairing its image or even ensuring quality process measures are in place so this does not happen again.  This is not about an expensive advertising campaign or PR push. J&J’s brand repairs must start at the C-suite and go all the way down to the manufacturing floor with retraining on the importance of the brand at all levels of the company.  Each employee must know and understand their role in the over all J&J brand, they must be empowered to act to protect it regardless of how small the issue may seem at the time.  If quality is the cornerstone of  your brand of being responsible to your customers, product quality failure is unacceptable and must be addressed at the moment it occurs, not two years later.   Bill Weldon, J&J CEO has gone on record and apologized for failing in their credo.  This is a good first start, but unless it is followed up with company-wide action, it is slicked up PR.


See more posts in the following related categories: Branding Pharmaceuticals Retail


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