Johnson's Baby, the biggest infant toiletries brand globally, has been losing sales and share for years. Startup brands and natural products have taken a big toll, as has U.S. litigation alleging a link between Johnson's Baby Powder and ovarian cancer, with a $4.7 billion judgment against the company earlier this month.
Johnson & Johnson vehemently denies that its baby powder ever posed safety risks and points to the reversals of similar judgments on appeal. But recognizing that the marketplace can be an even harsher judge, Johnson's Baby on Monday is beginning the U.S. leg of a global attempt to reframe its 135-year-old brand.
New creative from Omnicom's BBDO and independent agency VaynerMedia draws on interviews with 26,000 consumers globally, and incorporates video and images from 204 people in 52 families, including some very big men cuddling and dancing with very tiny babies.
The products, which have been free for years of some of the most widely derided ingredients—such as parabens and phthalates—now no longer have dyes or sulfates either. So the iconic gold Johnson's Baby Shampoo is no longer dyed gold, and Johnson's Baby Lotion no longer dyed pink. Overall, the product line has half the ingredients that it once did, making for simpler labels, and 96 percent of the ingredients now are naturally derived, says Sarita Finnie, senior director of Johnson's Baby Care U.S.
The changes follow from looking at Johnson's Baby products the way consumers, and startup competitors, would see them, adds Alison
"What parents saw were ingredients on the labels that they didn't understand, words that they couldn't pronounce, and all that was amplified by a friend or cousin on Facebook about how toxic the ingredients were," Lewis says. J&J had plenty of research showing its products were safe, she says, "but while we may have been right, the reality was that we were losing market share and share of mind. We tried to address the issues as they flared out. But now we realize we didn't react fast enough and the changes we were making were incremental."
So the restaging aims to fix the brand's problems at the core.
"We assessed each and every ingredient and challenged their reason for being," Finnie says.
Because bath time isn't necessarily the gauzy bonding moment often depicted in ads but can be fraught with wiggly babies and parents' fears about dropping them, for example, products were redesigned with pumps that can be used with one hand and soap that comes off in a single rinse.
Because dads play a much bigger role in baby care now, and grandparents are increasingly involved as well, creative in the new campaign brings in a wider family cast than just moms.
"The campaign features only real parents, no actors at all," Finnie says.
The tagline is "Choose Gentle." Last year Johnson's Baby was advertising under the tagline "Johnson's: For Every Little Wonder."
"Parents around the world want a better world for their children, and if you ask them what that means, they all want a kinder, gentler world," says Deeptha Khanna, J&J global president of baby care. Combined with Johnson's Baby heritage of making gentler products, she says, "it came to us in a flash" that the campaign should be about gentle.
That made for a simple creative brief and a campaign about how "gentle has the ability to transform," Khanna says.
J&J has done "mega-shoots," so far in Amsterdam for the U.S. and in India, where the campaign begins next month, collecting hundreds of hours of video and countless images that, if they aren't in the first round of content, may show up in subsequent ones, Khanna says.
Media behind the effort in the U.S. is 70 percent digital and heavily mobile, built around using a wide range of content that, beyond emotional video, also aims to expand and reinforce messages through short Facebook and influencer posts about the brand's new simpler, easier-to-use products, Finnie says. Interpublic's J3 and independent MediaMonks are handling media, with IPG's Devries Global handling PR and influencer work along with VaynerMedia.
As for the litigation, Finnie says Johnson's Baby Powder has been around since 1894, contains no asbestos and has been shown by a long list of independent studies to be safe. The new campaign isn't about that, but she says, "We do believe this is going to show a transformation of what Johnson's is."
Recent struggles aside, Johnson's remains the prohibitive global leader in baby toiletries with a 28-percent share compared to 2.5 percent for the next closest player, corporate sibling Aveeno Baby. Unilever's Dove Baby has made inroads of late, but local and startup competitors remain the biggest challenge globally, Khanna says. Challenges by big players globally, such as Procter & Gamble's Pampers and Kimberly-Clark's Huggies, never made much of a dent.
"It doesn't happen often where you have this massive leadership position," Khanna says. "That brings with it a sense of responsibility to remain authentic to yourself. We always had the highest safety standards … but we also had to transform ourselves."