Despite Opioid Verdict and Talc Litigation, J&J’s Reputation Remains Clean as Listerine

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The Reputation Institute, which ranked J&J among its top 10 most reputable companies only a few years ago, saw a precipitous decline for J&J in its tracking surveys since the Oklahoma opioid trial began in May. J&J still rates a 68.7 out of 100 in the firm’s RepTrak rating, which rates companies on such things as products and services, innovation perception, workplace, governance, citizenship and leadership, but that’s only average, well down from the top 10 U.S. ranking J&J had in 2016.

There is a key difference between RepTrak and Morning Consult. The latter performs daily tracking surveys with the general U.S. population. RepTrak starts with a representative global sample, but then screens for an “informed audience” of people who say they’re familiar with the company in question, and hence are more likely to be aware of the news surrounding it. But unlike Fortune’s informed audience, RepTrak’s participants aren’t necessarily corporate executives, directors or analysts who are used to pharmaceutical companies getting sued and investigated a lot.

Indeed, the whole pharma industry has seen its reputation fall over the past 18 months to the lowest of any industry, says Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, chief reputation officer of the Reputation Institute. He blames the opioid crisis and cost of prescription drugs among factors generally, with J&J hurt additionally by the baby powder and transvaginal mesh issues.

“Up to 18 months ago is when the heritage and emotional equity of J&J kind of slowed down that decline,” Hahn-Griffiths says. “But the moment the stories on opioids broke and prior to the trial in Oklahoma, we started to see Johnson & Johnson’s reputation decline precipitously.”

Even so, Hahn-Griffiths says J&J’s sagging reputation might not immediately affect purchase intent for its brands, since RepTrak screens for an informed audience rather than average consumers who buy Tylenol or Neutrogena face wipes.

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