Marketing, Responsibility, and Swine Flu

Posted on September 10, 2009


Everyone who goes to conventions and trade shows has heard of “con crud.” Sometimes it’s a specific illness, but mostly it’s a sense of fatigue and general illness. Quite often it’s psychological. Work days at conventions are often 12-16 hours long. You’re always “on,” always working, always putting on your professional face. When you get home, your unconscious can rebel, laying you out for a few days.

Even knowing that, the number of people reporting con crud the day after PAX seemed a bit high. A day later, I started hearing people blaming swine flu. Hypochondria, you say? By Wednesday, test results were back and there was a confirmed case. Many other people had seen doctors by then, and been medically diagnosed with the flu – but there were no more confirmed swine flu cases.

Now, a convention organizer could have washed his hands of the whole affair. In light of the illness, a bit of extra hand washing might have been in order. Gabe and Tycho took a different approach. They collected travel information for everyone with a flu diagnosis, and posted it (look for Gabe’s post on the 9th). They ran the con, people at the con got sick, and they acted out of compassion.

In 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after taking Extra-Strength Tylenol. In less than 2 weeks, Johnson & Johnson had warnings out to hospitals and distributors. They recalled all Tylenol products (31 million bottles). They even took out national advertising warning the public not to use their products until the investigation was complete. They developed new, triple-sealed, packaging that has become the safety standard for the industry. In less than a year, their stock price went up. Many attribute that to Johnson & Johnson’s prompt, aggressive, and public response.

Many other companies have been faced with horrific attacks and accidents. Those that responded like Johnson & Johnson, and like Penny Arcade, have rebounded and thrived. Those that waffled, attempted to conceal their involvement, issued confusing or conflicting statements, or flat out lied, have all suffered. Our little hometown convention has grown up, and is playing a big league game now. Good for you, guys.

Posted in: Marketing