The year of 2017 ended on a rather strange note with another viral trend, but this time it was much different than any others we’ve seen before.
The Tide Pod Challenge, in which people challenge each other to eat the packets of laundry detergent, gained attention in December and picked up its pace in January. What started as a joke about how Tide Pods look like candy quickly turned into a deadly Internet craze after people started actually consuming them.
Tide has responded, but the effectiveness of their response could be debated, considering that there are still poisonings associated with their products. Now many are blaming the aesthetic design of Tide Pods for the injuries. Damon Jones, the spokesperson for Procter & Gamble, Tide’s parent company, believes it’s a stretch to say that the design is to blame.
From a public relations standpoint, one could argue that Procter & Gamble could respond to this crisis by redesigning Tide Pods to look less appetizing. But I would have to agree with Jones on this topic– I don’t think the design is the problem here. Sure, it’s why the joke started in the first place, but now that this trend has already become a huge phenomenon, a redesign wouldn’t stop daring teenagers to eat them. Tide Pods are now, unfortunately, associated with both doing laundry and being eaten. The proper response to this trend would be to address the dangers of ingesting Tide Pods and spreading that information as much as possible. Tide Pods are deadly to eat, and everyone who has access them to them should know that.
Tide has already addressed the dangers that Tide Pods pose to children who could get a hold of the packets with informative commercials, labels and child-proof seals. Though this is still a problem that the company faces, children aren’t the ones who are participating in the Tide Pod Challenge. It’s teenagers and adults who knowingly eat the dangerous substances. Exactly how much they know about the dangers, though, is something that could be changed.
As an effort to spread this knowledge more, Procter & Gamble is making a smart move by reaching out to college campuses to have “honest conversations” about their products. It might seem like common sense to not eat laundry detergent, especially to college-age men and women. But it may not be common sense what eating Tide Pods does to one’s body.
In these conversations, I would urge Procter & Gamble to include the hard-hitting information about eating laundry detergent and other harmful chemicals. This could be statistics about how many people have died taking part in the challenge or detailed explanations what exactly happens to one’s body when he or she ingests a Tide Pod. Visuals that they could include are a physical breakdown of everything that goes into a packet of laundry detergent. Seeing the ingredients separated from each other could make it easier to realize how dangerous they are, and Procter & Gamble could begin by asking their audience if they would consume any of these chemicals. The answer the company would hope for, of course, is no.
Overall, any information that might scare a person into even thinking about putting a Tide Pod near his or her mouth would be highly effective.
In addition, Procter & Gamble could present on topics that don’t have to do strictly with their products. Possible discussions could be about how to respond when Internet memes and trends are dangerous, and what one can do as an individual on the Internet to stop dangerous these ideas from spreading. Viral trends are now a part of millennial culture, so addressing the possible dangers of them could be useful when preventing challenges like this to spread in the future.
For now, Procter & Gamble can inform consumers about their products and encourage safe behavior. But they also might want to be wary of any other viral challenges that involve their products. Even something that starts out as a joke can take a serious turn, and they’ve had to learn this the hard way.