Right Every Wrong, Don’t Defend Wrongs!
Johnson & Johnson, which lost 30 per cent market share and over $125 million in recalling stock, won praise for its quick and appropriate action
In mid-2016, I was commissioned to co-author Mann Ki Baat, a book based on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s monthly radio talk. In the book, I shared insights on nation-building, to counter and complement PM Modi’s thoughts and ideas.
After the book was launched in 2017, my insights in the book were read by many, including people in political and government circles. Late in 2017, I was invited to a meeting by a senior political leader to “discuss something important”. Over lunch he said, “Jerry, we loved your insights in Mann Ki Baat and have also heard your public-talks and would like you to be our party’s official spokesperson for TV panels and live discussions.”
I said, “I am humbled! However, I doubt if I have what it takes to be your party’s spokesperson”. He asked, “ Why? You are an eloquent orator and have well-defined, enunciated ideas and would be a perfect spokesperson.” I said, “Sir, as an independent citizen of India, I am non-partisan and do not believe in any party. Also sir, most political spokespeople (including his), are always shouting to defend wrongs done by their party and do not own responsibility for wrongdoings. They think they are screaming out the truth, but it’s only mindless cacophony. The public can see through their lies”.
I added, “I cannot do that! If spokespeople were allowed to speak their mind, own responsibility for wrongdoings and right every wrong, then the spokesperson and the party would have credibility and the public would value them for owning responsibility.” I asked him if I would have the freedom to own responsibility, speak my mind and right wrongs as his party’s spokesperson. He said, “That is not how it works in politics.” He said they would coach me to be a “good spokesperson”. I replied, “Sir, I choose to decline your spokesperson offer, because my choice is to be loyal to what is right for my nation and people, and not to any party.”
#IdeasForAction: Like political spokespeople many business brands also do not own responsibility for wrongdoings. They get their PR machinery, Perception Managers, lobbyists and marketers to spin yarns and peddle half-truths. Like political parties, businesses also need to learn that truth always triumphs and consumers who buy brands, can see through the lies and half-truths.
In 1982, Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Tylenol medication commanded 35 per cent of the US over-the-counter-analgesic market - representing around 15 per cent of their profits. Unfortunately, at that point some extortionist laced Tylenol packs with cyanide. Seven people died and panic ensued nationwide.
Johnson & Johnson acted quickly, owned responsibility - recalling Tylenol from every outlet across the United States. It also decided that the product would not be re-established on the shelves till something had been done to provide better product protection. Johnson & Johnson, which lost 30 per cent market share and over $125 million in recalling stock, won praise for its quick and appropriate action. Within a few months of the disaster, Tylenol recovered 70 per cent of market share and by righting wrongs and inspiring trust, J&J succeeded in preserving the long-term value of the brand.
Hope the J&J case serves as a great lesson for political parties and businesses.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.