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Analysis of Persuasive Campaign

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Essay title: Analysis of Persuasive Campaign

J.J. Mosher

Analysis of Persuasive Campaign Paper


Tylenol Murders of 1982

In September of 1982, McNeil Consumer Products (a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson) was faced with a crisis when seven people in Chicago suddenly died from the ingestion of Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules. Authorities determined that the capsules had been tampered with and each contained 65 milligrams of potassium cyanide. The amount of cyanide needed to hill a human is around six micrograms, which means that the pills contained 10,000 times that number. Dr. Thomas Kim, chief of the Northwest Community Hospital at the time of the killings said, “The victims never had a chance. Death was certain within minutes.” (Kaplan) (Wikipedia)

Seven lives were lost due to the tampering of the Tylenol capsules. According to a journal article by Tamara Kaplan of The Pennsylvania State University, 12 year old Mary Kellerman was the first to take the pills and died on the 29th of September in 1982. That same day, Adam Janus (27) took Tylenol to appease minor chest pains. Just more than an hour later, Janus experienced a cardiopulmonary collapse and died. When family members gathered to morn that evening, Adam’s brother Stanley (25), and his wife Theresa (19) both consumed Tylenol capsules from the same bottle that killed Adam. They were both dead within two days of the incident. Mary Reiner (27), mother of four, died shortly after taking two Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules on September 30. Paula Prince (35), a United Airlines stewardess, was found in her apartment dead with an open Tylenol bottle nearby. And Mary McFarland (31) was the last person to die from the poisonous Tylenol pills. (Kaplan) (Wikipedia) (Tifft) (Tylenol Murders)

The person(s) that tampered with the Tylenol products were never found. It is certain though that tampering was the source of poison in the pills. Almost immediately after learning that consumers had died from their products, the leaders of Johnson & Johnson started planning a corrective campaign in order to try and save Tylenol. Most companies faced with a problem of this magnitude would have had a very difficult time rebounding and continuing to produce their product. Yet Tylenol continues to be one of the major producers of over-the-counter pain medications. How did J&J accomplish this comeback? It was through strategic public relations and corrective advertising, plus the use of coupons and lectures about how they were able to fix the problem and prevent it from happening again.

The public relations decisions of J&J happened in two phases. The first was the actual handling of the crisis at hand and how to stop the chance of other people being hurt. The second phase was the comeback of both J&J and Tylenol, and what could be done to save their reputation and professionalism.

The first phase of Johnson & Johnson’s public relations campaign was launched immediately following the discovery that Extra-Strength Tylenol was killing people in Chicago. The top management at J&J designed a plan that put customer safety first before worrying about their company’s profits and financial concerns. J&J hired a team of public relations personnel to alert consumers across the nation immediately, via the media, to refrain from consuming any Tylenol product. Consumers were also told not to resume use of those products until the extent of the problem could be determined. Along with putting a halt on all production and advertising of Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson recalled all Tylenol capsules that were currently on the market. The recall included over 31 million bottles of Tylenol products with a retail value of over $100 million. Shortly after the recall, the Food and Drug Administration assigned new regulations and created a national mandate for tamper-resistant packaging. When the burials of three of the victims were shown on national television, executives from Johnson and Johnson wept out of grief and guilt. One executive said, “It was like lending someone your car and then seeing them killed in a traffic accident.”(Kaplan) (Broom, Center, Cutlip)

Taking responsibility for the problem was a completely new and unexpected approach to fixing a crisis for a company as large as Johnson and Johnson. In similar cases, other large companies usually put the company first rather than the customer and caused damage to their reputation. Because of how the situation was handled, Johnson & Johnson was praised by the media. Along with nationwide alert and the recall of millions of Tylenol products, J&J established relations with the Food and Drug Administration, the Chicago Police, and the FBI. This gave the company

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