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Fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal about how Johnson & Johnson is making a big gamble with its iconic baby shampoo brand - it is “cutting out chemical dyes and adding natural ingredients like coconut oil. It has updated its packaging and rolled out a new digital marketing campaign. And it’s trying to reconquer the baby-care market it has dominated for more than a century.”

While those may all seem like natural moves - pun intended - at a time when young parents are putting a greater premium on organic, natural brands that are viewed as the opposite of a legacy brand like Johnson & Johnson, it actually is a risk, since it is messing around with a product that is seen as having value way beyond its sales.

Here’s how the Journal frames the legacy:

“Johnson’s - J&J’s flagship baby products line - accounts for only about $1.5 billion of the company’s $76.5 billion in yearly sales. J&J gets most of its revenue from its higher-margin prescription-drug and medical-device businesses. But Johnson’s significance extends well beyond the revenue it generates.

“Johnson’s is the only product line in the U.S. that carries the company name. Many consumers come to know - and trust - J&J through the brand. That trust spurs sales of other products.”

Part of the problem facing the company was a fear that in changing its baby shampoo flagship, it would make the shampoo clear in color - which, while it would signify its new composition, also would be a radical change from the golden color with which generations have become familiar. In some ways that was a bigger problem than changing the product’s composition, until the folks at J&J came up with a novel solution - it changed the color of the plastic bottle, so that the shampoo still appears to be golden in color from the outside.
KC's View:
This is just one of the problems that J&J had to face … the other was reorganizing itself around the premise that e-commerce is a large and growing piece of its business.

I do find interesting that the “new” version of its baby shampoo is for sale on Amazon, but that the description makes it sound different as opposed to being an improved version of the old shampoo (which still is for sale on Amazon, though apparently not via Subscribe & Save anymore). This creates consumer confusion, and I think the language and positioning needs to be a little clearer.