Analysis of Johnson & Johnson’s Case

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In general, the case of Johnson & Johnson relates to the influence of social media on the company’s actions. In 2008, Johnson & Johnson experienced the considerably rapid spread of society’s highly negative reaction concerning a new online Motrin advertisement (Eisele, et al., 2010). It targeted mothers who frequently carry their children around in slings and experience pain caused by strain. However, on November 14, 45 days after the advertisement was released, it received negative feedback on Twitter from an influential mommy blogger who interpreted the company’s message as an offensive suggestion “that moms use baby slings as fashion statements” (Eisele, et al., 2010, p. 3). With the assistance of other bloggers, within several days, the Motrin advertisement of Johnson & Johnson became almost the most tweeted, and a considerable number of people followed the conversation. Social media users sent harsh comments, created counter advertisements, and blamed the company for the trivialization of women’s pain, motherhood, and the method of carrying children (Eisele, et al., 2010). In addition, the community members were waiting for any response from Johnson & Johnson.

It goes without saying that the Motrin advertisement has affected multiple various stakeholders both within the company and in the social media field, including:

  • Taxi Advertising and Design. This advertising agency with headquarters in Toronto created the advertisement. Although it cannot be fully responsible for society’s negative reaction as its work was accepted by Johnson & Johnson, people’s backlash may have a substantively negative impact on its reputation.
  • Community members, especially mothers. As the Motrin advertisement targeted mothers with children, it goes without saying that their approval or disapproval would determine the success or failure of the medicine’s sales. As a matter of fact, people’s negative response to the advertisement of Johnson & Johnson may substantially affect the image of the company.
  • Influential mommy bloggers. Both in the present day and 12 years ago, bloggers play a highly significant role in social media as they influence the network users’ opinions to a large extent. In the case of Johnson & Johnson, mommy bloggers helped to form the negative attitude of the audience to the company.

Ray Jordan, Margaret Gurowitz, Marc Monseau, Rob Halper, and other employees of Johnson & Johnson are involved in corporate and public communication. As people’s negative feedback affected the company, it affected its workers as well. At the same time, due to appropriately chosen strategy and employees’ efforts, “the possibility for a media firestorm” may be sizeable (Eisele, et al., 2010, p. 7).

Johnson & Johnson’s brands, including Listerine, Benadryl, Neutrogena, Tylenol, Splenda, Sudafed, Lubriderm, and Rolaids. On the one hand, they are regarded as the parts of the company, however, a substantial number of customers may not associate them with Johnson & Johnson. At the same time, they are highly affected by its actions as Johnson & Johnson’s tarnished reputation caused by the scandal related to the Motrin advertisement may contribute to the financial challenges of these brands.

Owners of social networks were involved in the scandal (Twitter and YouTube). In general, these stakeholders may be affected indirectly and insignificantly as social networks served only as channels for information distribution.

As global brands currently recognize the significance of social media for marketing and advertising, they use various techniques for the promotion of their products, customer attraction, and the creation of the company’s positive image, as well. Taking into consideration the fact that people frequently “trust and listen to what others say most of all,” companies focus on recruitment and cooperation with influential advocates in the social media field (Eisele, et al., 2010, p. 3). As a matter of fact, the stabilization of a challenging situation caused by the social rejection of the Motrin advertisement may be stabilized exclusively through social media channels as it has no connection with the product’s quality. In other words, Johnson & Johnson should not recall Motrin due to the medicine’s unsafety or redesign its package. The people’s negative backlash was caused by their interpretation of the company’s message that was identified as offensive.

That is why the most appropriate solution for Johnson & Johnson is the online publication of an apology for mothers through social media channels. In addition, the company may release the message with an explanation of its position and the genuine meaning of the Motrin advertisement. Moreover, the company may send either open or private messages to influential bloggers with an apology as well. In addition, the scandalous advertisement should be deleted or replaced. Through these actions, Johnson & Johnson will demonstrate to its customers that the company values their opinion.

It goes without saying that the most desirable outcome for the case of Johnson & Johnson would be the reduction of negative comments from users, the rehabilitation of the image of employees, management, brands, and the company in general, unaffected sales of Motrin, and collaboration with influential bloggers for the promotion of the company’s products. In general, in 2020, global brands should also consider social tendencies, such as sustainability, ecological friendliness, the reduction of racism and all kinds of discrimination, equality, feminism, and the rights of Black people, to avoid negative reactions. In the present day, with the appearance and development of new social media channels that did not exist before, including Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Marketplace, and TikTok, companies may use multiple options to address as many social groups as possible, communicate directly with their customers, receive feedback to improve their performance and collaborate with influencers for promotion.

The following Page Principles may be applied to evaluate the effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson in the establishment of public relations (“The Page principles,” n.d.):

  • Tell the truth. In general, Johnson & Johnson does not intend to ignore its stakeholders or provide unreliable information as the company values its reputation, principles, and history.
  • Prove it with action. The company’s social media team was preparing a response to the customers’ negative backlash.
  • Listen to stakeholders. The company considers its customers’ needs and aims to react to their feedback in a timely manner (Eisele, et al., 2010).
  • Manage for tomorrow. Johnson & Johnson constantly works on customer engagement with respect to people’s demands, needs, and views.
  • Conduct public relations as if the whole enterprise depends on it. The company’s social media team exerts all efforts to create a positive image of Johnson & Johnson.

Realize an enterprise’s true character is expressed by its people. The company’s social media team requires more trust, flexibility, and autonomy from the management in order to provide more time-sensitive feedback to users.

Remain calm, patient, and good-humored. Johnson & Johnson remains patient and calm being aware that the challenging situation will improve through the actions of its social media team.


Eisele, K., Fishburne, P., & O’Rourke, J. S. (2010). Johnson & Johnson’s strategy with Motrin: The growing pains of social media. The Eugene D. Fanning Center for Business Communication, Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame, 1-8. Web.

The Page principles. (n.d.). Page. 2020, Web.

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