Zicam's P.R. Crisis and the Mixed Message
In yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, I was struck by a full-page ad for Zicam, a cold remedy I had never heard of. The headline and text were set in bold white sans serif type reversed against a bright red background.
I immediately dismissed the ad without reading it. It was typical poor design and copy out of the pharmaceutical industry that often doesn't know good advertising from bad.
Whereupon I came across an AP story by Matthew Perrone titled, "FDA says Zicam nasal spray can cause loss of smell."
I noted this and then found the same full-page ad in The New York Times. Clearly the company was going through a P.R. crisis—something always worth studying and learning from. You never know when the egg will hit the fan and you will wind up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.
When I got upstairs to my office, I went online to www.zicam.com and was immediately faced with a video starring Bill Hamilton, a middle-aged man wearing a shirt with open collar, who is CEO of the company Zicam.
Click on the "PLAY" icon, and Hamilton delivers a calming, personal three-minute message from the heart that explains what has happened, guarantees Zicam's promise of absolute compliance and openness in dealing with the FDA and reassures the viewer that everything is going to be okay once all the facts are out. His lede:
My name is Bill Hamilton. I am the president of Matrixx Initiatives, makers of Zicam Cold Remedy products.
As you may have heard, the FDA has asked you to stop using our Zicam Cold Remedy Gel Swabs and Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel.
The FDA did this since some consumers reported that they lost their sense of smell after using these two products.