I was about to delete yet another article about needy Millennials and their enabling Baby Boomer parents when I was stopped short by a quote naming the original 1982 Tylenol crisis as being the cause. Say what?!?!
Yes, Virginia, according to Tim Elmore, founder and president of a non-profit called Growing Leaders and author of the ‘Habitude’ series of books, DVDs and survey courses, the Tylenol crisis single-handedly changed childrearing forever.
Says Elmore: “It began in the Fall of 1982, when seven people died after taking extra-strength Tylenol laced with poison after it left the factory. Halloween was just around the corner, and parents began checking every item in the loot bags. Homemade brownies hit the garbage; unwrapped candy followed close behind.’
This, says, Elmore, led to Baby Boomer parents obsessing with their child’s safety in every aspect of their lives. So, they kept them indoors, did their homework for them, and began the enabling process that has led to today’s generation of pampered, self-obsessed, live-for-the-moment Millennials. Or, so says Elmore.
I say, ‘Balderdash.’ Or, words to that effect.
While a single event CAN impact a future, entire generation (Think: the assassinations of Lincoln, Austrian Duke Franz Ferdinand and JFK, among others), there is NO way the Tylenol crisis changed child rearing.
My two Millennials were born years after the Tylenol crisis. And, if Chris and Catharine were spoiled, it was because I wanted to provide them with some of the things that I missed growing up in a lower middle class, blue collar world. Tylenol had nothing to do with it.
But, I’d like to hear what Boomers and Millennials alike think. The entire Elmore article is contained here.
I’d also encourage you to read a fascinating e-mail from my long-time friend, and colleague, Chris Tennyson. Chris finally puts to rest the myth about which PR professional REALLY played the key role in counseling Johnson & Johnson’s CEO to do the right thing . As Chris hints (and JFK noted): ‘Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.’
Subject: The Truth About the Tylenol Recall
You may have missed this obituary in Tuesday’s New York Times. Lawrence Foster was the head of communications at Johnson & Johnson in 1982- the time of the much-studied, much-applauded Tylenol recall. Over the course of my checkered PR career I have met dozens of PR practitioners who claim to be the driving force behind the company’s bold decision to pull Extra Strength Tylenol from the shelves and reintroduce the product in tamper-proof packaging. These PR guys always point out that the company was reluctant to take this expensive course and but for the wisdom of whatever agency the PR person I was talking to worked for in 1982, Johnson & Johnson would never have have done the right thing. I always doubted the veracity of these stories (I have only met more people who claim to have been at Woodstock than people who claim to have counseled J&J through the Tylenol recall). Well, now we know the truth. Larry Foster, VP Public Relations, had the trust of his chairman and convinced him to do the right thing, based on the long-standing credo of the company. As an eye witness says in the obit, Foster was “the strongest voice in the room . . .” So now we know the real story. Good work, Larry Foster- rest in peace. Three quick lessons here: Companies in crisis do better when the internal PR head is trusted by senior management . . . look for first principles and core values to guide you out of crisis . . . and agencies always take more of both the blame and credit then they deserve.
As for Boomers being at fault for what the HuffPo article calls ‘A generation of Helpless Kids,’ we’re neither responsible nor are they helpless.
Having said that, if you don’t feel better after reading this blog, take two Tylenol and call me in the morning.
And a tip o’ the Catamount hat to Peppercommer Nick “The Knife” Light for suggesting this post.