From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry (A Four-Part Series)
The following article is the final installment in our monthlong Promo Marketing Headlines series titled, “From Reactive to Proactive: Redefining Safety Standards in the Promotional Industry.” For the past four weeks, we’ve discussed product testing, quality assurance and how both suppliers and distributors can work in tandem to ensure the items they sell are safe for children and adults alike. Read on for the last chapter, which addresses the dangers and benefits of offshore manufacturing.
Part 4: The Global Sourcing Gamble
There’s a reason why Tylenol is still on drugstore shelves across America. Johnson & Johnson’s response to its 1982 cyanide debacle (and the subsequent redux in 1986) was prompt, honest and ethical. It’s really no wonder, even 25 years later, the event is still upheld by public-relations practitioners as the paradigm for crisis management.
Accepting blame is certainly tougher than assigning it, yet what saved the Tylenol brand was swift admission, and an open line of communication between Johnson & Johnson and America.
While this situation and that of the recent product recalls have similar elements, in today’s news stories, by contrast, the perceived “enemy” of global outsourcing has taken center stage as the guilty party—not the companies.
They may be apologizing. They may be collecting harmful items. Yet, the common implication that China is at fault for each and every product defect is a conception that they aren’t going far to discourage, either.
Shades of Gray
It’s no coincidence that with cheap labor comes the added risk of sub-par quality, however, there’s a big difference between design flaws and manufacturing defects. According to a study titled, “Toy Recalls—Is China Really the Problem?,” published in the September 2007 issue of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada’s proprietary publication, Canada-Asia Commentary, “A design problem will result in an unsafe toy irrespective of where it is manufactured. … Only toy companies can prevent problems associated with designs.”