Vogue International shows Johnson & Johnson how to do business in the 21st century

J&J's Michael Sneed talked about M&A branding lessons at a panel in New York on Friday.

Michael Sneed (Photo credit: Thomas Moore)
Michael Sneed (Photo credit: Thomas Moore)

NEW YORK: Johnson & Johnson didn’t just buy market share when it acquired hair care and personal care manufacturer Vogue International two years ago. It also bought a lesson in relevance and speed.

That was one takeaway offered by J&J’s CCO and VP of global corporate affairs Michael Sneed and Vogue president Michael Marquis at a panel hosted by Interbrand at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

Sneed and Marquis talked about branding’s role in M&As and the challenges and opportunities of large multi-brand companies acquiring smaller, more focused firms.

J&J bought Vogue in 2016 for $3.3 billion. Since then, Sneed said, his company has looked to the smaller company for lessons about the evolving marketplace.

"They’re showing us how to do business in the 21st century," Sneed said. "At J&J we talk about being a 130-year-old startup. But it’s one thing to say it and another to demonstrate it. [Vogue] is teaching us a lot about how we should best work so as we grow we can remain relevant."

Sneed said Vogue had capabilities that J&J either didn’t have or didn’t understand as well.

One of the capabilities, described by Marquis, was how tightly Vogue coordinates marketing and product design with social media. Instead of using market research firms, Vogue has community managers in each of its markets who constantly monitor social networks keeping tabs on customers’ concerns, and ensuring Vogue products are part of the discussion.

Another example is the speed at which Vogue operates. Marquis was amazed one day, when Vogue staff asked for his comments on a print ad and brought back an updated version an hour later.

"How did you do that?" I asked. "The speed I’m used to is: you give comments back to an agency, they write them up in notes, generate a report, and then it goes to an editor."

In general, Sneed said, acquiring companies like Vogue allows J&J to move past the approaches some might associate with his company.

"We can always look at bringing in tech like Vogue and business models that are quite different than what we are already doing," he said. "We should be looking far and wide for where we get our strategy and not just one way."

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