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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Damage control happens when a company goes through a massive crisis due to effects of an accident or error. This paper focuses on the Tylenol outbreak and scare of 1982. During this time, Tylenol was taken off of the shelves due to seven fatalities in the Chicago area. Johnson & Johnson went through tremendous efforts to ensure consumer confidence, and explain to consumers that they were willing to cooperate in whatever was necessary to fix the problem at hand. The public relations team had a strategy in place to deal with media and consumers. One strategy was changing the product packaging. This paper seeks to explain the way Johnson & Johnson overcame this crisis.

Tylenol Outbreak

Public relations plays a big role in company problems and if acted upon in the right manner, the company will not suffer in the long run. Public relations is a profession that has been around for quite some time now. They are required to have excellent organizational, interpersonal, and communication skills. It is important for public relation professionals to effectively communicate with the public and have the ability to persuade and influence its consumers. When dealing with huge companies the most important part is public relations, how these people decide to deal with problem, address the media, and speak to consumers can make or break the company.

During 1982 Tylenol suffered and incident that no one thought they could come back from. Johnson & Johnson were in deep trouble when it was found out that their lead pain killing medicine, extra- strength Tylenol, had caused seven people to die in Chicago Illinois. Through investigations it was reported that a suspect or suspects took several bottles of the product off the shelf, exposed it to deadly cyanide and put it back on the shelf. As a result of this, seven people died and consumers lost confidence in the company and were in a panic. Tylenol received worldwide media coverage which led to an quick and efficient communication of the event to the public to ensure that the company was not responsible for what was happening. Johnson & Johnson took a financial hit when it had to destroy and recall about $100 million dollars worth of product in addition to the loss the company was facing after the public reacted to the horrific incident. (Campbell et. al., n.d.). Following that event Tylenol decided to pull the product off the shelf as quick as possible, stop production completely, and cooperate with the investigation and media. In addition to all of that, they decided it was best to stop all forms of advertisement and marketing of the product. Johnson's & Johnson's changed their packaging to improve and protect consumers lifestyle. By doing this, it allowed them to regain the public's confidence. To improve their product packaging they came up with tamper-resistant packaging, which is now used by many manufacturing companies ("Tylenol Scandal And Crisis Management"). The fatalities occurred between September and October of the year 1982 and by November of 1982 Tylenol had already been put back on the shelf in the  new tamper-resistant packaging.Johnson's & Johnson's launched a marketing campaign to put the product's name before the public to ensure the public's attention and to tell the public about the new packaging. Since packaging was changed Tylenol was able to regain the consumers trust and the product was able to sell again.

Johnson's & Johnson's had to think about its employees, members of the board, shareholders, investors, and management before it could come up with a public relations strategy.  The strategy called for two different designs, one for internal communications, and one for external. By doing this, they were able to deal with both the internal and external public before moving on to the consumers. By separating the public relation strategy into three different parts, Johnson & Johnson was able to keep the media on their side and answer all questions to the best of their ability.

"Without the help of the media, Johnson and Johnson's program would have been completely ineffective" (Kaplan, n.d.). Johnson & Johnson had to cooperate with all types of media because it was the fastest and most effective way to communicate with the public at the time. They responded to the media by addressing the public's fear, the CEO was in constant communication and very cooperative and they interacted with the public through the media and answered all questions to investigating parties.

Johnson's & Johnson's used several strategies and skills to deal with this major crisis. During this time, the company's chairman decided to recall $100 million dollars worth of Tylenol capsules which have negatively impacted the company's finances ("Tylenol Scandal And Crisis Management"). The chairman saw the possibility of regaining the public's confidence which would end up benefiting both the product and the company in the long run. In addition, "once the state of urgency had passed Johnson's & Johnson's agreed to refund or exchange all capsules purchases despite a huge financial loss (eventually totaling $300 million) which he determined this was a ‘loss strategy' which would in the long-term pay off" (Bennnett et. al., 1997).

Johnson & Johnson's public relations strategy really helped during this time of crisis and was used to successfully overcome this crisis the correct way. By doing so, the focus was shifted to the media and J&J really had the time they needed to figure out what to do. J&J was lucky to have the media on their side as long as they were cooperating. As we all know it could have taken a turn for the worse if the media decided to make matters worse. CEO James Burke was on top of the media at all times to answer questions and he assured the public of the companies commitment to resolving the crisis and continued product excellence.

The successful crisis management of Tylenol's scandal was handled the right way due to public relations professionals and business professionals at Johnson & Johnson. Knowing the crisis at hand and all the pressure it caused the company and them, the public relations professionals at Johnson & Johnson used their talents and skills to communicate efficiently with the public and make sure they knew that the company's best interest was the consumers.  Tylenol's public relations strategy was successful at managing the crisis that faced them. Tylenol is the number one over-the-counter pharmaceutical company in the United States. The company is in good standing now due to how they handled the crisis. Instead of worrying about the money they were losing, they worried about the safety of their buyer. Consumers feel safe knowing that companies are quick for inform consumers of what is going on.

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