Bad Friends

August 13, 2007

Johnson & Johnson sues the Red Cross

The cost of corporate greed?

Not that everyone doesn’t already know about this story, but Johnson & Johnson is actually suing the Red Cross for the commercial use of its logo (see the USA Today Story).   I’m sure that the Red Cross may have legally misused the mark by which J&J claims ownership of commercially.  But as explained by the Red Cross, "The Red Cross products that J&J wants to take away from consumers ... are those that help Americans get prepared for life's emergencies," Everson said. "I hope that the courts and Congress will not allow Johnson & Johnson to bully the American Red Cross."

And that’s exactly what consumers will think.  Even if J&J has a legitimate legal argument, it fails to do what a friend would do in the same situation.  J&J and the Red Cross have been partners for decades.  So if you have an old friend did something you thought was improper, or betrayed you in some way, what would you do?  Run off to sue him/her?  Probably not.  You’d likely sit down and discuss it with them, try and see their POV, give them the benefit of the doubt and solve it in a way that repairs/grows the friendship.

It looks as if J&J decided against that route.  Maybe they did offer a alternative solution to the Red Cross.  Who knows, but it sure doesn’t look like it from the stories I’ve read.  At any rate, consumers are weighing in. has J&J suffering a -2.4 impact on their reputation.  One popular sentiment is that J&J is tying up emergency disaster funds for a legal battle. Brilliant.

What J&J seemingly doesn’t understand is that this will hurt their relationship with customers.  Because the relationship customers has with the brand isn’t just based on the products they pay for.  People develop friendships with brands in large part because the brand stands for something they stand for, or at least aspire to stand for.  It’s called having things in common; believing in similar things and sharing similar worldviews.  This action will undermine that commonality J&J holds with consumers.  It says, “we don’t actually believe in helping people, we just want to make sure we keep making money.”

Most disastrous actions such as this could be avoided by asking the simple question, “what would a friend do in this situation.”

by Brandon Murphy