• Transform magazine
  • February 29, 2020


Dispatches from Cannes Lions, part one


The Cannes Lions festival is well under way in the south of France. With attendees spanning the globe and covering all aspects of corporate creativity – from advertising to branding to PR to digital – the week is sure to be bursting with new ideas, technologies and creative approaches.

On one of the main stages yesterday, the co-founder of Pinterest, Evan Sharp, spoke about the ways in which people are building creativity into their busy lives through the power of technology. He said, “Creativity is a counterbalance to connectivity,” meaning that in a world governed by digital connection, carving out the space to be creative can enhance a person’s connection with themselves.

That ethos was echoed in a discussion by Johnson & Johnson Consumer’s chief marketing officer Alison Lewis on brand reinvention. She focused on the heritage brand’s journey from preeminence to reputational misfortune to reinvention.

“Parenthood requires constant decision making,” she said. “Nothing is ever quite sure.” That means parents are forced to examine in painful detail every decision they make about their child’s health. In an interconnected age, those decisions are influenced and judged by global networks of people. Those networks have been, for the past few years, causing brand damage to Johnson’s because of a significant rise in the desire for organic, natural and transparent products for children.

Johnson’s, which has for over a century, relied on science to inform its product decisions, had to reexamine its approach to packaging, positioning and perception in response. “It didn’t really matter that science was on our side,” Lewis said. “We didn’t react fast enough or strong enough. The changes we were making were incremental.” Thus, Johnson’s was faced with a difficult challenge: How could it stay relevant and adapt, while maintaining its brand heritage and iconic status?

The result was to embrace a startup mentality and reinvent everything the brand did in product development, marketing and branding. Its new focus used ‘gentle’ as a purpose and catchword, aligning every choice the brand made around that. One of the casualties of this shift has been, to some extent, heritage. Johnson’s No More Tears shampoo – an icon dating back to 1953 – had traditionally been a gold colour. As part of the refresh, the shampoo is no longer gold. But, sacrificing that element of heritage has helped the brand set out in a new direction and potential new success. Lewis says the new direction has used heritage as an inspiration for the brand’s change and for its future.

The new packaging rolls out in August and is supported by a global PR and advertising campaign designed to change the perception of Johnson’s focusing on the concept of gentleness.