Thursday, August 9, 2007

Blogger Brouhaha Over the Cross

Never has there been such a brouhaha over the Red Cross since Turkey's Red Crescent was accepted as an additional symbol of the International Red Cross Movement at the Geneva Convention of 1929.

At issue is J&J's decision to sue the American Red Cross (ARC) for unauthorized license of the famous symbol to third-party, for-profit organizations selling products like baby mitts, nail clippers, combs, toothbrushes and humidifiers.

The blogs within the Pharma Blogosphere that have written about this include:

And probably a few more that I left out.

Some blogger comments include:

"I actually sympathize with J&J's business stance here," says Steve Woodruff over at Impactiviti blog. He adds "As with the recent case of Novartis and the Indian government, some cases brought as a matter of principle (and I’m sure the profit motive wasn't absent, of course - this is business), to try to settle long-term case law, will bring plenty of short-term odium."

Most other bloggers agreed that this was not a good PR move by J&J. Ed Silverman at Pharmalot merely said "This can't be a good public relations move." He then proceeds to summarize the facts.

In a followup post, Silverman says "J&J, like any company, is entitled to defend its property, including trademarks. But in an environment where big drugmakers are regularly criticized for putting profits over patients, does it make sense to run to court and take on an institution that, for many Americans, is seen as an angel who appears in time of need?"

Ed asked readers to vote on the issue. As of this writing, 57% of respondents to Pharmalot's poll -- not a scientific study! -- think J&J should have sued.
POLL UPDATE: Late results from Ed's poll indicate a reversal: 57% now think J&J should NOT have sued ARC!
Peter Rost, on the other hand, disagrees and had this to say in his NRx blog post: "So seriously folks: Is this about the most foolish PR move by any drug company this year? Or is it the worst move in a decade???"

One commenter pointed out that Rost did not balance his post with the other side of the issue: "If the blogger had done his research, he would have included that the Red Cross is licensing, for profit, the cross symbol out to companies whose products directly compete with those of J&J."

In JNJ BTW's Court?

JNJ BTW Blog's response as of this writing has been nil (see P.P.P.S. below). Marc Monseau's last post entitled "A Word or Two More About This Week's News..." is NOT about the Red Cross flap, but about J&J's "cost reduction plans,' which is soooo old news dude!

P.S. After I posted this, I noticed that Fard Johnmar over at HealthcareVOX suggested that Marc Monseau post something on his blog even if it's "commentary from someone knowledgeable about it. Depending on what he says," said Fard, "this move could help mitigate some of the bad press the company is currently receiving and significantly elevate the influence of J&J's corporate blog."

P.P.S. I think the train has already left the station!

P.P.P.S. Maybe J&J caught the train after all! I just read this JNJ BTW post "You're Doing What?!" It wasn't written by Marc Monseau, but by Ray Jordan, who I don't know (he is not listed in the "About the Authors" section of the blog).

As I suspected, Marc is on vacation, according to Mr. Jordan: "Our small media relations group was reduced even further by summer vacations (including Marc Monseau, who does double duty as our chief resident blogger – that's why I'm pinch-hitting this posting). Nonetheless, we felt most every journalist we engaged with (including bloggers) gave fair hearing to both sides of this matter." [BTW, no one at J&J "engaged" with me yet. Maybe they spoke to Peter Rost?]

"So," says Ray, "I've now lived a classic corporate public affairs nightmare: announcing a lawsuit against the American Red Cross."

Disclosure: Both Fard Johnmar and I have had a number of unofficial conversations with Monseau about his blog and the company's social media communications strategy, but none on this subject.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't care how much JNJ protests that they had to file the suit, the fallout on this is going to last a long time. It has undone all the goodwill from the Tylenol scare. My 12 year old daughter read about this suit in the newspaper and informed me she will no longer take Tylenol. She's now compiling a list of all JNJ products, which she plans to distribute to her classmates when school starts up at the end of the month, telling them they shouldn't buy JNJ products and they should have their parent stop doing so as well. Now, if that's the reaction of a 12 year old, what's the rest of America going to think?!

Someone at my office wondered if JNJ was going to trademark Santa Claus and then charge the Salvation Army every Christmas season.

This was stupid, and even worse, it was avoidable. Someone (like the CEO) should be fired over this. Is JNJ going to charge the US Army for the use of the red cross on its ambulances and helicopters? Sure seems like the natural next step...