What We Can Learn From the Tide Pod Challenge Besides the Obvious

The infamous Tide Pod challenge is a new internet meme that encourages young adults to consume laundry detergent packs. Yes, this is a terrible idea, potentially lethal and people wonder why anyone would even consider doing it. A student at Utah State University was recently hospitalized for eating one. It’s understandable how children would mistake a Tide Pod for candy, which is why their packages have safety locks, but it should be common knowledge for teens and adults that laundry detergent is not edible. There is, however, more that can be learned besides some simple common sense about what you should and should not eat. Proctor & Gamble’s response to this is a good example of what to do during a public relations crisis.

For anyone in PR, the Tylenol poisonings of 1982 have been the longtime textbook example of how to conduct crisis communication well. Johnson and Johnson immediately responded, stopped the problem from spreading, and took appropriate measures to ensure it would never happen again. They successfully earned their consumer’s trust back and Tylenol remains a top-selling pain reliever.

The Tide Pod Challenge is the most recent example of defusing a situation using PR as well as social media and video. The goal for crisis communication is to minimize the damage to your brand’s reputation and strengthen the trust with your customers and stakeholders. Although the Tide Pod Challenge isn’t Tide’s fault, they immediately stepped in and took the responsibility to help stop the challenge from continuing. It’s important to keep the brand as the thought leader to help avoid negative word of mouth. Proctor & Gamble, the company that makes Tide, quickly released a statement denouncing it and worked with YouTube and social media companies to remove the challenge videos. Their social media team has also been standing by to promptly respond to consumers who need help.

Tide also posted a video clip of NFL star Rob Gronkowski explaining why you shouldn’t eat Tide Pods. Thanks largely to that, there are now several memes, photos, and gifs about the dangers of the Tide Pod Challenge. It’s harder now to get attention for actually doing it.

Gronkowski became a spokesman for Tide in 2017 and appeared in a series of commercials during Super Bowl LI. Because teens are more responsive to influencers, Gronk was brought back to reprise his role to remind everyone that Tide Pods are for laundry and nothing else. Even Ice T released a PSA against it when he appeared on The Tonight Show.

In the age of social media, anything can happen no matter how ridiculous it may be. The most important thing is that you know how to handle a public relations crisis. Get on top of the situation before anyone else so that you have full control over your brand’s perception. Communicate all relevant details and always remain truthful.