As worries about Baby Powder's safety mounted, J&J focused its pitches on minority and overweight women
Reuters - Pressure was mounting on Johnson & Johnson and its signature Baby Powder.
In 2006, an arm of the World Health Organization began classifying cosmetic talc such as Baby Powder as “possibly carcinogenic” when women used it as a genital antiperspirant and deodorant, as many had been doing for years. Talc supplier Luzenac America Inc started including that information on its shipments to J&J and other customers.
J&J, meanwhile, looked for ways to sell more Baby Powder to two key groups of longtime users: African-American and overweight women. The “right place” to focus, according to a 2006 internal J&J marketing presentation, was “under developed geographical areas with hot weather, and higher AA population,” the “AA” referring to African-Americans.
“Powder is still considered a relevant product among AA consumers,” the presentation said. “This could be an opportunity.”
In the following years, J&J turned those proposals into action, internal company documents show. It distributed Baby Powder samples through churches and beauty salons in African-American and Hispanic neighborhoods, ran digital and print promotions with weight-loss and wellness company Weight Watchers and launched a $300,000 radio advertising campaign in a half-dozen markets aiming to reach “curvy Southern women 18-49 skewing African American.”
Read the full Reuters investigative report here.