Toyota’s recall of more than 6 million vehicles in the US is certainly not the first time a major company has been forced into an about-face on a product. A chronological look at some of the major product recalls in the last 28 years also shows that how a company manages its product recall can have quite a dramatic effect on future profits.
1982 – Tylenol murders
When seven people in September 1982 died in a small district in Chicago, Illinois – two after gathering to mourn the death of another victim – and it was discovered that the cause of death was cyanide-laced extra-strength Tylenol pain relief capsules, experts sounded the death knell for the popular American drug.
However, there was a ray of light for Johnson & Johnson, the drug’s manufacturer when Illinois police quickly ruled out contamination at the company’s plants, saying they were looking for a rogue operator, possibly taking bottles off the shelves in local pharmacies to contaminate. J&J acted quickly to recall the drug – which was their most profitable product at the time – and started a big two-phase public relations campaign. The first involved cooperating with the media and advertising the message that the public should not use any Tylenol-based drug but should return them to the company for a refund.