It’s the year 2018 and every advancement in our society has been stifled by the consumption of Tide Pods.
The desire to eat a laundry pod—specifically Tide’s detergent product, packaged in plastic dissolvable packets—has taken over the internet
for better or for worse. It’s popped up on pizzas and been recreated as edible donuts, and tweets regarding the consumption of the pods have gone viral countless of times. YouTube even started pulling videos of people eating them (please, for the love of laundry, don’t eat Tide Pods).
Brand awareness has probably never been higher for Tide than it is today, but the whole idea that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” doesn’t quite work in the age of the internet anymore—and whether or not the 7-year old product will survive is unknown. So what’s Tide to do next?
The Procter & Gamble detergent brand has been swept up on social media responding to those who have consumed the pods (once again, please do not actually eat Tide Pods), referring their Twitter followers to reach out to their doctors and poison control—who can be reached at 1-800-222-1222, in case you find yourself needing it.
The company also enlisted help from New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to convince the good people of the internet that it’s never a good idea to put one in your mouth, no matter how similar they look to Gushers.
What should Tide PODs be used for? DOING LAUNDRY. Nothing else.
— Tide (@tide) January 12, 2018
But will it help them from slowing down a trend they didn’t even intentionally create?
“One, to a certain extent, kids will be kids, and the internet will be the internet, and kids will be kids on the internet,” brand strategist Emily Schildt explains.
Schildt has worked with various brands like Chobani, Pret a Manger, and Zocdoc, and admits that this dose of virality isn’t really in their control. “Also, Tide inherently has it tough,” she continued, explaining people already trust larger brands less than smaller ones.
Tide has constantly been a solid brand that has become one with act of doing laundry, so while Schildt explains not much could have been done to prevent this from happening in the first place, the brand definitely could have managed the aftermath a little differently.
“Tide’s in an unfortunate position because this ‘game’ has had serious consequences, beyond being offensive, inappropriate, and distasteful, which are setbacks that are much easier to recover from,” Schildt explained.
She believes that there are three things that they could have done: come out with a statement and “taken more control of the conversation,” had a member from the company take it on rather than a comical address to the public from a celebrity, and taken “serious action,” such as removing product from stores “to communicate not only the severity of the matter, but also their sense of responsibility, empathy, and genuine concern for the safety of their customers.”
However, Tide really is in a tricky position: they didn’t do anything besides make a product that a large amount of people with the power of the internet have now turned into a meme. The brand’s gaffe is simply rooted in existing as a useful product that looks like a snack, not lack of diversity in the board rooms or shortage of social awareness a là the H&M sweatercontroversy, Pepsi’s ad with Kendall Jenner, and Dove’s Facebook blunder.
Despite this, it’s in Tide’s hands to rectify the situation, because the craze doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
“People like people, not big companies, so they need to put a real face to the brand and have someone internally take responsibility for the situation, putting out a serious warning against consumption of the product, noting the deaths and hospitalizations over the years due to the act, acknowledging and sharing remorse for their missteps, and letting people hear the truth from the horse’s mouth,” Schildt explained, also adding that there needs to be some serious PR moves made to recover from the light-hearted content that’s proliferated the media.
“And, they have to do all of this perfectly, or it will be more fodder to fuel the internet,” she added.
Until this trend dies down, pleeeeeaaase, no matter how tempting it looks, do not eat the Tide Pod.