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The fight to save Tylenol (Fortune, 1982) - Fortune Features


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Fascinating look into a company in crisis.

What's the best thing they did during crisis?

Not giving up. On their brand or their mission. J&J is an interesting company...but I like how they responded here..

"From the start, Burke squelched one obvious option: abandoning Tylenol and reintroducing the pain reliever under a new name. Despite the long odds many outside marketing experts give against a complete comeback, and the fact that sales of Tylenol products initially dropped 80%, company executives say they never had any question about whether to bring back Tylenol. Says Wayne Nelson, Collins's predecessor at McNeil, who is now a company group chairman, "Even in our worst-case scenario, where we get back only half the base we had before, it would still be the market leader."

By the second weekend Burke had moved on to the third phase: rebuilding the brand. "We were still in a state of shock," explains Burke. "It's like going through a death in the family. But the urgency of bringing about Tylenol's recovery makes it important we move out of the mourning stage faster than usual."

The following Monday he formed a strategic group of key executives to oversee the McNeil task forces. It seemed clear that the company would have to come up with a new tamper-resistant package, as would the rest of the drug industry. But how consumers ultimately feel about the product -- and what conflicts the poisonings posed in their minds -- will be the determining factor in the comeback. Burke called in Young & Rubicam, J&J's oldest advertising agency, to begin polling consumer attitudes. Initially he wanted to know how the public was reacting to the crisis, but he also knew the surveys would be indispensable in building a data base for what was obviously going to be, as he put it, "a very complicated communications problem."

Wow, I'm not sure the company would be as loyal to the brand today.

Sometimes it's better to rebrand.

Media would crush them with the story.

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