Johnson & Johnson: Marketing vs the Marketer
I recently read a post by Geoffrey James on BNET titled How Brand Marketing is Destroying Johnson & Johnson. As I’m sure you’ve read, the health care products and pharmaceuticals company has been inundated with one product recall after the next of late, with allegations ranging from unsanitary findings to critical quality control problems. In summary, James alludes that the cause of the decline in Johnson & Johnson’s brand equity is their excessive marketing efforts, which are reported to be at a cost of over $19.8 billion with yearly revenues of $62 billion.
While it’s certainly reasonable to suggest that Johnson & Johnson’s investment in brand marketing is disproportionate relative to their revenues, it strikes me as rather short sighted to suggest that marketing is the root cause of their decline.
A most relevant quote by Marty Neumeier on this subject is this: “A brand is not what YOU say it is. It’s what THEY say it is.” In other words, a customer’s sum of experiences with a product or company will determine their allegiance. Sure, a company’s marketing efforts strive to positively guide and influence the brand’s perception and encourage affinity. But no amount of effort or investment in advertising or marketing efforts will create allegiance if the product or company doesn’t meet their expectations or fulfill the promises. Brand loyalty exists only in the mind & heart of the consumer. Failure to recognize this fact sends so many brands the way of J&J. Yes, they ought to redirect their efforts to reducing number of brands and creating better products that stand up to their (once) good name. That’s not an easy task once a brand becomes irrelevant or worse, untrustworthy.
But it’s NOT brand marketing that’s destroying J&J. It’s J&J destroying themselves by producing sub-par products and neglecting the integrity of the brand. Their heightened marketing efforts may be a way to regain market share, which they’ll never see return on if they don’t improve quality and manufacturing processes. But let’s be clear. It’s hardly their marketing effort that’s the source of the problem. It’s the people behind those efforts and the neglect of the brand promise that’s at issue.