SC Johnson is an American family group specializing in home care products that include Mr. Muscle, Canard WC, Brise, Oust (air-fresheners), Baygon, and others. In March 2009, SC Johnson innovated by creating a mini-website - www.whatsinsideSCJohnson.com - where the ingredients contained in all the products of its brands were listed.
Last week the group launched a new communications campaign that was particularly interesting both in content and form:
- SC Johnson promises henceforth to specify - by January 2012 – on this mini-website, the ingredients of perfumes and dyes and also the preservatives contained in its products: these relate to the most recent ingredients that were not yet available.
- The message relies on the family image of the company: "Sharing our ingredients, one family to another". The current CEO, Herbert Fisk Johnson III, said in The New York Times: "With our family name on products and our family name on the company, your family reputation is at stake. I like to tell the story that the difference between my situation and a public company C.E.O. is that if a public company C.E.O. screws up and damages the reputation of the company, they get a golden parachute and move on with their lives. If that happens with us, I have to look my family in the eye for the rest of my life".
This reminds me of Jean-Louis Dumas, who said to me: "Hermes is not a brand, it is a contract". Seeing my astonishment, he added: "My name is on all our products. Each time we sell a product with the Hermès signature, it is as though I signed a contract with this customer. I am bound by it".
We are entering the Age of Responsibility - where all brands, all companies, will eventually be required to account for the environmental, social and health impacts of their products. The example of SC Johnson - which puts commitment and transparency into practice - shows that family firms may be better equipped to cope with it than others.