Repairing Damaged Brands; Lessons in Crisis Management

I can’t stop thinking about the OTC baby medicine recall. What a disaster…and just one of many recent disasters.  From the potential bomb in Times Square, to the BP oil spill in the Gulf, to earthquakes and floods, potential e-coli outbreaks, and now a baby medicine recall.  After reflecting on the many lives that are being affected by each of these events, I began to wonder how a place or an organization recovers from the negative press.  What will make people feel comfortable once again in Times Square?  How does BP rebuild the trust of the people (and the government) so that it may continue to drill for oil?  How do communities find the courage to rebuild?  How do we trust our food suppliers?  And most importantly, what will provide a new mother with the confidence that a medication is safe to give her child.  I mean, where does McNeil (the manufacturer of Tylenol, Motrin and the other products involved in the recall) begin in its effort to repair the damage this recall has caused?

Well, having quite a bit of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, I thought I would help McNeil out by developing a strategy to repair its scarred reputation.  But before I could do that, I needed to find out what the general public was thinking about this recall and the impact it’s had on their lives.  So I asked two young moms I know what they thought about the Tylenol recall. Here’s what they said.

Question:  “Hi Siedah and Sarah.  In your opinions, what do children’s OTC medicine manufacturers like McNeil Consumer Healthcare have to do to rebuild your trust in them so that you feel safe giving your children Tylenol and Motrin again?”

Siedah (mother of a 10-month-old daughter):  “OMG!  I think this is a big deal.  I use the Target brand so I didn’t have to change brands.  It’s so much cheaper at Target and they seem to have a good track record.  But after the bad history with Tylenol, and now this, they REALLY have a bad track record.  If you don’t already use the generics, this new recall may send you to generic brands.  They seem to be just as effective and cost less, and so far no recalls.  So for now, I think I’ll keep my trust with the Target brand.”

Sarah (mother of a 10-month-old son): “My pediatrician only recommends Tylenol, so I will continue to give him the medicine when he needs it.  I’m happy they sent out a recall and I was able to discontinue use.  I would like see some type of website that mothers can register their Tylenol/Motrin lot # and get a message directly from the company if anything is wrong with that bottle. The only reason I knew that there was a problem is because my mom had seen it on the news and that really bothered me.  As a mother I want to take a pro-active step in keeping my child safe. Other than that I think time is the only true way to rebuild my trust in them.”

So, here’s my recommended strategy for Tylenol and Motrin manufacturers to rebuild the trust of the consumer; take it One Consumer at Time.  I’ve given you a start with two young mothers, but let me know if I can help more.


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