Vioxx, Ethics, and Sales
Here's yet another case of a company pushing product it knew wasn't safe. Now we learn that Merck actually stepped up its marketing of Vioxx once it was known that the product was linked with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The company sent out a detailed sales training menu, even covering proper etiquette when dining with doctors. Vioxx became a best-seller, before the feds yanked it off the market.
Sometimes I wonder if the business world is populated by slow learners. They may create terrific sales projection PowerPoints and elegant profit spreadsheets, but they seem to lack any ability at all to find True North in their moral compasses.
And even if these talented and highly compensated MBAs don't have a moral compass, you'd think they'd have figured out by now that deceptive practices, and particularly the selling of something as safe when you know it's not, are bad for business.
We've already seen, after all (to name just three among dozens of examples)...
The plunge of revenue at Ford following revelations that they knew all along, even before they brought the car to market, that Explorers have an unfortunate tendency to flip over in hot weather Enormous payouts from the tobacco companies, who also knew all along that they were pushing death And a positive example: the rapid return of consumer confidence and profits when Johnson & Johnson stepped up to the plate and made it clear, following the Tylenol poisoning incident, that here was one company that actually did put its customers first. J&J took full responsibility for something that was not even its own fault, launched a massive recall campaign with huge publicity, and became one of the most trusted brands in America
I know they teach ethics in business school; maybe the message will only get through when people realize the ethical path is actually better for the bottom line (something which I discuss in some detail in my book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First http://www.principledprofits.com ).