J&J’s New Marketing Strategy

Babies to the Rescue

Here’s a trick of the branding trade.  When in trouble, use babies or puppies to soften the impact.

Take Johnson & Johnson. The company built enormous public trust after its famous handling of the Tylenol crisis in 1982. It wrapped J&J In a blanket of goodwill for years.

Until now. The folks at J&J knew its phamaseuticals company was facing lawsuits for its role in the opioid crisis. This happened even before an Oklahoma judge found the company guilty in fueling the state’s opioid crisis.

So—babies to the rescue. J&Js is trying to change focus with a new marketing strategy: Johnson & Johnson is a baby company. Its ad begins with cute babies. Then it goes on to promote awareness of the other good things it does such as fighting cancer, restoring heart rhythm, and controlling HIV. The company never mentions many of their products are developed by the very pharmaceutical company that makes opioids.

The company has weathered a string of troubles, including a 2008 FDA finding that J&J violated manufacturing protocols, causing contamination to some of its products. J&J’s blood thinning medication Pradaxa had been linked to serious bleeding with little treatment available. However, these crises had a sort public life span generated little interest.

Then, there was the discovery that J&J’s baby powder was exposed to asbestos contamination, thus, causing ovarian cancer. Worse: J&J company executives were aware of asbestos liabilities in the 1970s. Aa a result, J&J has been spending billions to settle the lawsuits. Yet negative coverage didn’t bring worldwide attention until now.

Back to J&J’s pharmaceutical crisis. The Oklahoma judgement hit a public nerve. Pharma companies have been partially blamed for the opioid crisis. Pharmas are bad guys. Who knew J&J made opioids? It doesn’t jive with J&J’s trustworthy image. The opioid crisis has led to more focus on their baby powder mess as well. Will this hurt J&J’s positive image? Will the babies save it?

We have to stay tuned. Who knows? Maybe we’ll see puppies in J&J’s next ad.

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Robin Cohn and Co

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