Tide Pod challenge creates PR issue for multiple brands


The Tide Pod Challenge. It started out as the latest in a long string of stupid trending stunts on social media. By the time it made the news, parents were horrified, and several brands were doing damage control.

If you haven’t heard of this issue, here’s the low down: People, mostly teenagers, have been ‘challenging’ each other to ‘eat’ Tide laundry detergent pods. The idea here is to get views and clicks by showing the ‘eating’ on camera, usually on YouTube or Facebook.

Several prominent brands have been dragged into a harsh light thanks to this situation. Tide, of course, is doing all it can to distance its brand from the activity. Meanwhile, YouTube parent company Google said it plans to remove all clips depicting people biting down on the pods. In a statement to CNN, a Google spokesman said:

“YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm… We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”

Facebook says it has also removed any related posts on both Facebook and Instagram. They told CNN, “we don’t allow the promotion of self-injury and will remove it when we’re made aware…”

But, for the impacted brands, the PR trouble is just beginning. The ‘challenge’ brought to the forefront an issue Tide has been dealing with for years. Namely, that kids are mistaking the pods packaging for candy and inadvertently poisoning themselves. That, combined with the headlines talking about the outbreak of “intentional poisoning” thanks to the Tide Pod Challenge has the company scrambling to save face.

Every time the company’s product is featured in the news, a competitor has an opportunity to win more trust among the consumer base. Tide parent company, Procter & Gamble, understands this, and has come out in recent days strongly condemning the ‘challenge’ and saying nothing, to them, is more important than customer safety.

In an interview with CNN, a P&G spokesperson admitted being “deeply concerned” about the ‘challenge’ and said they hope social media sites find and delete the videos quickly. In addition to these statements, P&G recruited New England Patriots superstar tight end, Rob Gronkowski to publish an infomercial warning for people not to eat the pods.

In addition, YouTube said it would “manually review” its most popular videos to ensure none of them violate their guidelines or platform rules. For some critics, though, that step is not only long overdue, but it’s not good enough. They want more oversight on social media to protect their kids. Tide, meanwhile, would just be happy not to see its name in the papers connected with “poison.”

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

Ronn Torossian and a friend

Ronn Torossian and a friend

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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