Johnson & Johnson: The Growing Pains of Social Media

johnson and johnsonGlobal companies have been increasing their social media presence to generate deep customer engagement and communication. Johnson & Johnson is an American multinational medical device, pharmaceutical, and consumer packaged goods manufacturer founded in 1886.  It has an extensive social media network in place to reach its customers. J&J has always kept up to speed on new social media platforms. Ray Jordan joined J&J in 2003 as Vice President of Public Affairs and Corporate Communication. Jordan recognized that there were new groups in social media that were influencing online dialogue and J&J needed to develop relationships with these bloggers. J&J developed their own blog, Youtube Channel,  Twitter, and Facebook that allowed them to communicate and have an open-dialogue with their customers. In 2008 J&J experienced outrage over one of their ads and the social media team needed to develop a crisis management plan.

“Wearing your baby seems to be in fashion… plus it totally makes me look like an official mom. And so if I look tired and crazy, people will understand why. MOTRIN® we feel your pain.”

These words appeared on the Motrin website as an effort to target mothers who developed pain from carrying their babies around in a sling.  On Friday November 14, 2008 45 days after the ad was posted, an influential mommy blogger noticed the ad and began tweeting about her offense to the suggestion that moms use baby slings as a fashion statement. Soon, other influential mommy bloggers picked up the thread like Amy Gattes and the Motrin ad became one of the most tweeted about topics on twitter.

The #motrinmom was trending on Twitter and allowed people to follow the conversation. As uproar spread through the various social media channels, the messaging shifted from “shame on Johnson & Johnson” to “where is a response from Johnson &Johnson?” On Sunday, November 16, J&J became aware of the outraged regarding the online ad. The vice president of Marketing, Kathy Widmer wrote an apology letter to consumers and was posted on the Motrin website.


Check out the video here!

Screen Shot 2017-04-16 at 9.09.25 PMJeremiah Owyand has screen shots showing the analytics and how #motrin was trending.

Johnson & Johnson effectively responded to the crisis. J&J immediately removed the ad from their website and apologized for the ad. The Vice President of Marketing Kathy Widler, who herself is a mom of three daughters wrote the apology letter. It is very important that the Vice President of Marketing made a statement because this shows that J&J cares about their customers and wants to make things right. Widler explained they never intended to offend any moms and take customer complaints very seriously. The ad was removed from their website and magazine advertising. J&J also wrote a separate apology letter to mommy bloggers and Widmer explained their intentions and apologized for disappointing the mommy bloggers. J&J should also contact the mommy bloggers and develop a relationship with them. Mommy bloggers are very influential and it is important for J&J to establish a relationship with them.  J&J could do sponsored posts with mommy bloggers or send  out coupons out to those who were offended by the ad. It is extremely important that J&J took responsibility and repair relationships with offended customers.  Johnson & Johnson was able to pull through this crisis and continues to be a leading company worldwide. They have various social media platforms that allows J&J to communicate with their customers. Social media is constantly growing and changing, J&J should be kept up to date about influencers and what customers are saying. J&J can track success through Twitter and Facebook to see what customers are saying. Overall, I think Johnson & Johnson learned from their mistake and are now doing an excellent job with their social media platforms. Johnson & Johnson is the most mentioned pharmaceutical company on social media according to Simplify 360.


Advertising Age did an excellent job discussing the impact and timeline of the crisis.


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