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Jonhson and Johnson's Tylenol Response Gold Standard

Johnson and Johnson's Tylenol Response Is the Gold Standard in Crisis Management

The 1982 the Tylenol poisonings was the case that put "crisis management" into the permanent management lexicon. The facts are legendary. In the fall of 1982, a murderer added 65 mg of cyanide to some Tylenol capsules while they were on store shelves. Seven people were killed, including three persons in one family. J&J, makers of Tylenol, quickly recalled and destroyed 31 million bottles at an expense of about $100 million. James Burke, the company CEO, made numerous appearances in TV ads and in news conferences notifying consumers of the actions the company was taking. Tamper-resistant packaging was quickly introduced, and the sales of Tylenol swiftly snapped back to near precrisis sales levels. The perpetrator of this crime was never found.

Many continue to hold the Tylenol case up as the classic response to a crisis. Experts argue that fessing up and taking quick corrective action is the best form of crisis management. A major lesson to come out of the Tylenol crisis is that companies can take action quickly and effectively and prosper in spite of extreme adversity that befalls them. Even today, 30 years later J&J's response in the Tylenol scandal remains the gold standard in crisis management and is still taught in Universities across the world as an outstanding of effective crisis control.

Questions
1. Some say it was easy for J&J to take this action because the crisis did not originate within the company. Did this fact set the stage for the company's quick recovery? Would things have been different had the company been at fault?

2. How is the Tylenol case similar to or different from Ford and Firestone's linkage with dangerous tires or WorldCom, Tyco, Enron, and HealthSouth's malfeasance resulting in company leaders being accused of scheming to enrich themselves at the injury of others?

3. Was J&J really being socially responsible or were they quickly acting in their own best financial interests? Does their motivation matter?

Solution Preview

1. Saying that it was handled differently because it didn't originate within the company really can't be substantiated by anyone. There is no proof that it would have been handled differently. In my opinion, this did not set the stage for the way that it was handled. To determine if the company would have handled it differently, we can consider this; what if the person who tampered with the bottles while they were on shelves did work for the company or was a past employee of JJ? I actually remember when this happened. JJ handled the incident quickly and with the highest of ethical standards at the forefront. In their public releases and appearances that were immediately made, the first comment was something to the fact of, "Consumer safety is our first priority. We are ...

Solution Summary

This solution addresses the following three questions from the Johnson's Tylenol Response strategy in Crisis Management:

1. Some say it was easy for J&J to take this action because the crisis did not originate within the company. Did this fact set the stage for the company's quick recovery? Would things have been different had the company been at fault?

2. How is the Tylenol case similar to or different from Ford and Firestone's linkage with dangerous tires or WorldCom, Tyco, Enron, and HealthSouth's malfeasance resulting in company leaders being accused of scheming to enrich themselves at the injury of others?

3. Was J&J really being socially responsible or were they quickly acting in their own best financial interests? Does their motivation matter?

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