What would a Norman Rockwell family look like today? Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol has an answer in its new ad campaign, which is obviously far more diverse than the white, middle-class gathering featured in the iconic "Freedom from Want" painting of 1943.
Tylenol's take shows a Japanese family, an African-American family headed by a grandmother with a pierced eyebrow, and a blended family that includes a lesbian couple. The work from WPP's J. Walter Thompson includes a voiceover from the painter's granddaughter, Abigail Rockwell.
Following a soft launch of the initial video for Thanksgiving and release of a second video on the Yee Hoshida family on Tuesday, Tylenol will launch videos on other families over the course of the holiday season backed by broader online media and PR support, the latter from Edelman's Zeno unit, which worked with JWT on developing the insights.
The videos kick off Tylenol's new "For What Matters Most" campaign and tagline and presage a broader media effort in 2015, said Manoj Raghunandanan, senior director on the Tylenol business.
The idea was about "proving Tylenol really does understand what matters most to people, and invite them to participate in that conversation," said Eric Weisberg, executive creative director at JWT.
"We thought the holiday season is probably the best time to do that," Mr. Raghunandanan said.
Portrayals of American diversity, family or otherwise, while seemingly obvious, have proven controversial for such brands as Cheerios and Coca-Cola in recent years. But J&J isn't concerned about possible controversy, Mr. Raghunandanan said. The effort "reflects our credo," he said. "It reflects serving our consumers and how unique and diverse they are."
But what does it have to do with pain relief? "If you look at what we've stood for as a brand, it's always been so much more than pain relief," Mr. Raghunandanan said. "Caring for people and going beyond their pain is what makes Tylenol Tylenol."
The brand's connection with consumers starts with Infant Tylenol, he said, so "intrinsically Tylenol always has been linked to family and has been for 60 years."
Tylenol was buffeted by a series of quality-related product recalls and shortages in recent years as it overhauled manufacturing under a consent decree from the Food and Drug Administration, with full production in the U.S. only resuming within the past year. But the brand has bounced back, leading J&J headache remedy sales to a 27% increase for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 22, according to Nielsen data from Deutsche Bank and market share up 1.6 points to 11.6% for the latest four-week period.
The rebound has exceeded J&J's expectations Mr. Raghunandanan said. "The way people are reacting to the campaign and the way they're reacting to our products just indicate what a strong bond there is between Tylenol and its consumers."