Tag Archives: brand success

Brand Success: Tylenol

Have you ever asked for acetaminophen?

More than likely, you’ve asked if anyone has some Tylenol.  That’s a classic example of brand success.  If you visit the Tylenol website, you’ll find 20 different varieties of the product, and learn that the parent company is the McNeil Laboratories subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson.

logo-tylenolIn the mid ’70s, Tylenol moved from the 5th most popular analgesic to become the number one branded over the counter (OTC) analgesic product on the market.  It had become a more familiar pain relieving product than aspirin.  As often happens when a product is the top-selling or more recognized brand, someone or something tries to take it down.

In 1982, someone tampered with bottles of Tylenol Extra Strength by adding cyanide which killed several people in the Chicago area.  No one was ever caught, but Johnson & Johnson made a smart move.  The company distributed warnings to hospitals and distributors and halted Tylenol production and advertising. On October 5, 1982, it issued a nationwide recall of an estimated 31 million bottles of Tylenol products with a retail value of more than $100 million.

Some considered the move a death knell for the product, while the consuming public praised it for the emphasis placed on the greater well-being of the general public.

The company advertised in the national media for individuals not to consume any products that contained acetaminophen.  When it was discovered that only capsules were tampered with, Johnson & Johnson offered to exchange all Tylenol capsules already purchased by the public with solid tablets.  The company also took the innovative step of creating tamper proof seals for bottles, creating a renewed sense of security with the consuming public when Tylenol was re-released.

Now, more than 30 years later, the tampering incident is little more than a footnote in the product’s history.  The Tylenol brand owns the market for acetaminophen pain relieving products.  Bayer still owns the brand recognition for aspirin, while one of the other pain relieving medications, Ibuprofen, has become recognized for the product rather than the manufacturer.  In essence, it is it’s own brand.

The lesson in this case study of a successful brand is that Tylenol has dominated when it comes to the 1st Law of Marketing:  The Law of Leadership.

It is the leading brand because it is the first brand in the prospective customer’s mind.  People don’t ask for acetaminophen, they ask for Tylenol.  Once you have a customer, they are likely to stick with your brand – as evidenced by Johnson & Johnson’s success with recalling Tylenol products because of the tampering incident.  Tylenol has become the generic term for acetaminophen, another example of that 1st Law of Marketing.

Remember that marketing is perception, not the product, so people perceive the first product in their mind to be the superior product.  The first brand tends to maintain its leadership because the name often becomes generic, as is the case with Tylenol.

Professional consultants are available to help your product become the #1 brand at whatever scale is possible.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand

Brand Success: Band-Aid

A key to the success of your brand, or any other brand, is to be first in the mind of the consumer.  Do you ask for a facial tissue, or for a Kleenex?  Do you ask for a soft drink, or for a Coke?  Do you ask for an adhesive strip, or for a Band-Aid?


The 3rd Immutable Law of Marketing is the Law of the Mind, as defined in Al Ries and Jack Trout’s 1994 book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.  Briefly stated, it means that being first in the mind of the consumer is more important than being the first to the market with a product or service.  The success of Johnson & Johnson’s Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages is a perfect example of a company owning the consumer’s mind.  The Band-Aid brand name today is synonymous with a first aid product, but it is also identified with a method of providing solutions to problems.  It has become a common term in everyday language, which solidifies that place of ownership in people’s minds.

How many times have you heard someone identify a temporary solution as needing a “Band-Aid” for fixing the problem?  The benefit to Johnson & Johnson is that every time the name is mentioned, in whatever context, it reinforces the brand’s identity in the minds of consumers.  The consumer may not know that Band-Aid is a Johnson & Johnson product, but they do know what a Band-Aid can do for a cut, scrape, or other minor injury.  The consumer doesn’t ask for a Curad bandage, even though that might be what they wind up using to patch up a small injury.  They ask for a Band-Aid.

Owning the consumer’s mind, however, does not excuse Johnson & Johnson from continuing to provide a quality product to customers.  That sense of ownership comes right back to the company.  Johnson & Johnson’s reputation, to a certain extent, is built on the credibility they’ve established with the Band-Aid brand, and other brands in their portfolio.  Johnson & Johnson must constantly monitor quality and sustain the brand’s identity at an exceptional level to continue their ownership of the consumer’s mind.

The success of the adhesive bandage for Johnson & Johnson has enabled the company to diversify and offer other medical-related products to that consumer market.  Gauze bandages and a host of other products have found a place because the Band-Aid brand is so strong.

While this may be a great success story, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with your business.  Good question.

Your brand may never achieve the level of ownership Band-Aid has in the mind of the consumer, but it could.  You may need professional advice, but if you can become the leader in your industry and own a specific category or niche, there is an excellent chance your product or service can become the preference of your customers and others.  It takes market research, graphic development, and a number of other pieces to put it all together.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand