The public has gradually grown to see the company's profits-over-people corporate paradigm.
News broke last week that J&J would discontinue its North American sales of baby powder made with talc, a product at the center of nearly 20,000 lawsuits filed by cancer patients.
The company said it would wind down sales over the next few months. Existing bottles will be sold by retailers until they run out. Baby powder made with cornstarch will remain available, and talc-based baby powder will continue to be sold in other parts of the world according to the company.
Why is the termination of J&J's flagship product a momentous and symbolic event for the public?
If you were only paying attention to J&J's press release, you might think that "Demand for talc-based Johnson's Baby Powder in North America has been declining due in large part to changes in consumer habits and fueled by misinformation around the safety of the product and a constant barrage of litigation advertising." Or so writes the company.
In reality, however, J&J's public messaging was myopic and insulting. Perhaps it always was, while attempting to downplay the damaging truth around its talc product. With talc's commercial death, so goes the faux deceptive reasoning J&J has used to shield itself and hide the human suffering the product has caused.
For over a century, J&J promoted its baby powder as pure and gentle enough for babies' bottoms. It was a symbol of its corporate commitment to family health—but that's all gone now. That's because the public has learned that behind the scenes, something far more nefarious was at play: An American corporation desperate to grow its profits at any cost.