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Cannes Lions 2018: Alison Lewis on how Johnson & Johnson made a comeback after its crisis

The Global Chief Marketing Officer of the company shared insights and the strategy change that the brand undertook when the consumers started losing trust

Johnson & Johnson, a name synonymous with baby care products, faced a brand crisis at the pinnacle of its growth. Negative information started floating in the market about the ingredients in its products. Johnson & Johnson pulled up its socks and managed to win the battle by gaining consumer trust through various amendments in the branding and communication of its products.

Alison Lewis, Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Johnson & Johnson, who was present at the second day of Cannes Lions 2018, talked about the brand’s strategy to cope up with reputation loss in the age of consumer scepticism.

“We saw ourselves as the protectors and the champions of baby products everywhere. While we were the No.1 paediatrician-recommended brands, consumers started seeing us differently. Our reputation started to be under threat. Starting 2000, we were bombarded with negative information about our ingredients in various media headlines. The news was amplified through social media,” said Lewis.

Lewis said while the brand understood the science behind the ingredients on the labels, parents saw it in a different light, which they didn’t understand.

“We never anticipated how damaging these perceptions were, which became reality in a little time. At this point of time, our background of science did not matter. There were so many competitors in the market with lesser research and knowledge and were getting robust on advertising as being ‘natural’. We might have been right, but the reality was that we were losing market share and share of the consumer’s mind space,” added Lewis.

Lewis said, “Looking back we realised that we didn’t react fast.”

The brand decided to start all over again from the scratch, keeping humans and consumers at the centre of everything deliberately. The brand disclosed the ingredients and made the labels easier to read. It also changed its ingredients to more natural products.

Moving ahead, Lewis said, “We wanted to represent ourselves as ‘Gentle’. Gentle became our lens through which we filtered everything. Like this, everything started falling into place. We simplified our portfolio and that provided us the speed and scale as the journey continued.”

Lewis said, “Rebuilding trust takes time and not just putting products on the shelves and advertising them.”

As part of the brand saving exercise, the company is working closely working with nurses and doctors in educating them about the products. The brand is continuously interacting with NGOs, influencers and creating a good dialogue about the brand’s goodness.

The brand realised the need of interacting with the parents who search everything online for their kids. “We decided to surround our products with the digital ecosystem that allowed us to share insights and knowledge we have with the parents.”

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