August 14, 2011#

Blurring the Line Between Corporate Charity and Marketing

Corporate social responsibility should first and foremost be good for business, according to famed Harvard Business School profession, Michael Porter, as reported today in the New York Times.
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January 17, 2011#

J&J Product Recalls Damage Corporate Brand

How damaged is J&J’s reputation as a result of the recent multi-product recalls?

The company is limping, but we see no reason why it can’t turn things around.

Of course, J&J wrote the book on product crisis management. Yet the company seems to have forgotten everything it learned when it earned high praise from consumers and industry pundits alike following the original Tylenol recall in 1982.

Recently, J&J has recalled “288 million items, including about 136 million bottles of liguid Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl for infants and children,” according to a recent report in the New York Times.   The causes:  quality control problems.

Up to this point, J&J has been able to lay low, and hide in the shadow of other, bigger corporate crises, namely, BP and Toyota.

But with a growing number of negative news reports and surging consumer disenfranchisement expressed on-line, it’s time for J&J to step forward and take center stage.

As a first step, J&J needs to dust off its brand credo which has successful guided the company to being one of the most trusted in the world.

Next it needs to fix the product problems–fast–and to physically communicate its safeguards in the form of tangible proof (once again taking a page from the original Tylenol recall when they invented the safety cap).

Simultaneously, it needs to start talking publicly, broadly and repeatedly, to reestablish its historically well-earned reputation for transparency, by honestly explaining what went wrong, what the company is doing to fix the problems, how and when.   They could actually learn a thing or two from BP and Toyota on this.

J&J can fix this.  It’s time to step forward into the spot light.

August 9, 2010#

Too Much Marketing

Ad Age this morning posed the question whether company brands might be better served by investing more in product quality and less in marketing communication. 

The article poses this question in light of the recent troubles at BP, Toyota and J&J.  

Here’s the short answer.  Yes. 

Andy Rooney said this once on 60 minutes:  “What we need today is less marketing and more quality.”

We couldn’t agree more.  All professional marketers should heed the pity wisdom of those simple words.  As we said in our book Why Johnny Can’t Brand:

“Make genuine performance, service, trustworthiness, fair dealings, helpful innovation, and improving the live of every customer the soul of your brand.  Make your vision nothing more than to be the very best you can be at what you do.  Make your mission to do it the right way always.

BP, Toyota and J&J all built their reputations on superior product and service performance.  In other words, their brand images have less to do with advertising and more to do with customer experience of their products.  Toyota built its brand image of reliability by building reliable cars.  J&J built its brand image of uncompromised trust by bending over backwards to be trustworthy, even if that meant losing money as with the Tylenol recall years ago.  

In the world of branding, action is character.  What a brand does is much more important than what it says.  Just like people, we judge people by what they do, not what they say they’re going to do.

October 6, 2009#

FTC Keeps Bloggers Honest

It’s recently been reported that the Federal Trade Commission will be applying rules to bloggers and social media regarding the relationship between advertisers and product reviewers and endorsers similar to those applied to TV since 1980.  (NY Times).

For bloggers, this means full disclosure when they receive payment or gifts in exchange for their reviews.  We hope this equally applies to Facebook, YouTube and  Twitter. 

Ultimately, the FTC’s move is a good thing for brands and brand guardians.

There’s been a lot written over the last few years about the importance and value of “brand authenticity,” the simple idea that presenting your brand and its core values in an honest, genuine way, is more likely to engender trust and loyalty, than, say being disingenuous.   Of course, no one likes to be snookered. 

No surprise, then, that brands lose value and even die when consumer trust disappears—a trust that largely comes from truthfulness, openness and transparency.

Afterall, what’s good for consumers is good for brands.  Consumer’s want to know what’s what.  So brands should tell them. It’s a simple thing.  Brand deception is a relic from the past—or at least should be—more suitable to an episode of Mad Men than the customer centric marketing environment we live in today.