In 2012, P&G released their new product, Tide Pods, meant to make doing laundry easier. Following the launch of the product, poison control saw an increase in calls of children eating these Pods. Despite the fact that it is detergent, Pods inevitably look like candy. The Pods themselves appear alluring, and their colors and shape resemble that of a bite-size candy. The reality of children eating these Pods allowed the conversation to spark amongst adults and joking about eating them themselves. It is important to note that these jokes about people eating the detergent existed back in 2012, but comments of this type were small and not discussed publicly. Within the next three years, the company recognized the issue and designed new seals for the product.
Now six years later, the Tide(s) have turned. Today, more adults have died eating Tide Pods than children. What once started as a joke on Twitter and Tumblr, has become a reality and The Tide Pod Challenge has emerged. Challenge videos have become a common theme on YouTube. The Challenge went mainstream especially when news outlets picked up on the trend. This fad is now on a downward slope, its peak being the media’s coverage of it, but the paramount question lies in how this has harmed the company’s sales, and how they have handled or could have handled this crisis better. P&G has taken several steps to discourage the recklessness associated with their product, including a public service announcement and getting YouTube to remove videos with dangerous behavior. However, the incidents have some consumers wondering if the product should be banned and some lawmakers have pondered the idea of taking even further action.
Our team has developed the theory that these preventative protocols will only draw more attention to the issue and potentially add fuel to the (already dying) fire. Banning these pods or restricting access to them will likely only cause their hype to increase and make something as simple as detergent pods into a black market luxury item in high demand. Instead, we believe that Tide should begin a charitable campaign based on this pod fad, in order to put a more positive light on the company and on the pods themselves. The concept is that social media users, whether they be celebrities or ordinary people, will take the “Pod Pledge” against detergent consumption and for a worthy and relevant cause, such as clean drinking water in nations destroyed by natural disasters or Boys and Girls clubs that operate right here in the United States and target kids at an age where eating Tide pods might make an impression on them. For every person who takes this “Pod Pledge,” Tide would donate $1 to this cause, and while millennials have been some of the greatest perpetrators of the Tide Pod Challenge, they are also a generation known for charitable giving and participating in Social Media Campaigns. Tide would be down in profits, but would gain good publicity, would be donating to a very worthy cause, and would also garner widespread support against the Tide Pod Challenge that is harmful to those who participate.
The main lessons from this project and presentation were that social media campaigns can be effective in being in control of the agenda throughout long-term public relations issues, and that the destructive behaviour of teenagers does not necessarily dictate the success and profits of the product they choose to abuse. In our first lesson, we researched the successes of Tide’s “#cleanpledge” in order to inform our anti-pod pledge the #podpledge. In the clean pledge, consumers pledged to use more environmentally friendly detergent, and in turn Tide donated $5 to the World Wildlife Fund. For our imaginary Pod pledge, each internet user who posted on social media using our hashtag stating that they would not eat Tide pods, was met with a $5 donation to a coastal cleanup charity. The Tide Pod Challenge is and was a long-term issue, but utilizing social media and Press releases, Tide and Proctor & Gamble were able to control the agenda. The second lesson was that the reckless choices made by teenagers in relation to our product was not enough to deter sales. Through media analytics, we were able to find that Tide Pods were the most popular detergent by far and had not seen any decrease in sales despite the controversy.