Tylenol Causes Headaches


I can almost guarantee everyone who reads this has taken Tylenol in their life for one reason or another.  Most likely as a hangover remedy or for some obscure injury obtained while drunk, but the fact of the matter is everyone has used it before.  It is such a commonly used product that it has become the genericized trademark for any medicine that is like acetaminophen.  What do doctors say? “Take 2 Tylenol and call me in the morning.”  People have relied on this magic medicine for decades and have become loyal buyers of the brand.  What would happen if this left the shelves and people couldn’t get it anymore?

Well that’s what has been happening over the past few years with several Tylenol recalls.  It has been recalled for several reasons including leached pesticides, particles of wood and metal, infectious bacteria, overdosed medicines, underdosed medicines, and even a musty smell:

Tylenol was essentially coerced to recall their products by the FDA, but not “forced.”  They had to decide; do they keep the musty product on the shelves, or do they recall their product and risk losing customers and shelf space?  Well in my opinion, they chose the right thing and recalled their products.  Although a lot of customers were upset with their decision because there was basically a shortage at pharmacies and other markets, but in the end it was the better decision because they knew it was best for all parties involved in the long run, even though there would be negative sentiment initially.  In my paper I hope to dive into the decision J&J had to make when recalling all of their products and how it affected their business.  I will try to determine whether or not business is or will be better as a result, and if customers actually cared about their “correct” decision to recall the products.  Some seemed upset at the time, but they may have been more upset if they had some adverse effects from the products.

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7 thoughts on “Tylenol Causes Headaches

  1. From what I have heard about this case, the decision was based on upholding customers’ trust of the product and relied on a long term commitment that could withstand a shortage in stores. Do you think the type of consumer product (health and beauty vs. electronics, for example) would influence a similar decision for other companies?

    • I do think the product plays a large role. Especially with products that have similar substitutes. When Apple had a shortage of iPhones, a lot of people hung around and waited for more to come in, and they didn’t just go get a Samsung (although I bet some did). If Hanes had a shortage of undershirts, I’m sure a lot more people would go to Fruit of the Loom. Tylenol is kind of in the middle of the two examples I think. People are loyal to the brand, but there are substitutes out there that can easily replace it.

      • Yea I remember when I was younger I would often have Tylenol in my house . When I had a headache or felt a little under the weather Tylenol was my go to medicine. Since the case and since the lack of Tylenol in pharmacies I have switched over to Advil. I’m pretty sure I’ll stick with Advil for a while. Did Tylenol lose me as a customer?? Maybe – time will tell.

  2. I’ve always thought of Johnson & Johnson as being the trademark family-oriented company. I would almost expect nothing less of the company then for it to recall the faulty Tylenol product. I wonder if a lesser-known company would have made the same decision. Reputation can be extremely damaging to a company’s bottom line. J&J must have had to weigh the risk between recalling the product and losing all of that money and also the option of keeping the product on the shelf and potentially losing customer’s brand loyalty.

  3. Dude, what a marketing coup. The saying WAS “take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.” That is marketing power to have a word adopted. Like Xerox for a copy…

    Course, in the south we called all soda “coke.” “You wanna coke with that? ” “Sure, whatcha got?” “Hon, we got coke, diet coke, sprite…” 🙂

  4. So, you are doing a different topic now? Regardless, I was a little worried about this:
    “I will try to determine whether or not business is or will be better as a result, and if customers actually cared about their “correct” decision to recall the products. Some seemed upset at the time, but they may have been more upset if they had some adverse effects from the products.”

    Whether or not a given company does better financially is not by itself going to be an ethical analysis. Just be mindful of what criteria you are using.

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