Case Analysis : Johnson & Johnson

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During 2009 and 2010, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary McNeil Consumer Healthcare recalled tens of thousands of children’s medicine products, including the well-known brands Tylenol and Motrin (Haynes, 2015). The recall was done in response to complaints of particles in the liquid medicines produced by the Fort Washington, PA, facility. McNeil claimed these particles were small metal pieces, which did not pose any safety risks to consumers (Haynes, 2015). The public was unsettled by this revelation of Johnson & Johnson releasing defective products onto the market. After news of the recall, FDA investigators found that the plant had violated the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by not producing according to best industry practices (Haynes, 2015). Additional controversy was created when congressional investigations revealed that private contractors were hired to quietly buy back defective products without the public’s knowledge in a “phantom recall” (Olaniran, Scholl, Williams, Boyer, 2012). Johnson & Johnson ineffectively used crisis communication in the following ways: first, the company was slow to respond to complaints of issues with products and perform the official recall, which led the public to lose trust in the organization; second, it performed a “phantom recall” of defective products without the public’s knowledge, showing it was not willing to be transparent about the situation; third, CEO Bill Weldon avoided commenting on the crisis and sent a subordinate in his
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