P&G’s lame response to the “Tide Pod Challenge”

Idiotic teenagers are eating Tide Laundry Pods; poison control centers have reported 39 cases already in January. Procter & Gamble, the company that makes the detergent pods, had responded. I salute its social media response, but the CEO’s statement is tepid.

Let’s address one thing right off: failing to talk about this problem isn’t a strategy, because by the time it hits news media, teenagers on social media have already heard about it. P&G’s best bet is to go on the offensive with messaging about what a terrible idea eating a Tide Pod is. (In case you’re wondering, it’s likely to lead to severe inflammation of your mouth and esophagus, gastrointestinal disaster, and possible respiratory arrest. If that sounds like a “challenge” to you, well, please try something safer, like cliff-diving.)

Some of P&G’s actions were on-target

According to Fortune, P&G took on the pod abuse with four strategies.

1. Respond on social media. Tide is tweeting responses to pod-eaters, telling them to contact medical authorities.

2. Make them taste bad. A few years ago, after curious toddlers started eating pods, P&G added an ingredient that tastes bitter. Unfortunately, the bad taste hasn’t deterred foolish teenagers.

3. Get the videos taken down. YouTube and Facebook have banned the viral videos that started the Tide Pod Challenge. I could no longer find them online.

4. Get Gronk to say no. Rob Gronkowski, the huge, wildly popular New England Patriots football player and Tide Pods pitchman, recorded a video suggesting that eating Tide Pods is a bad idea. (He must have done this before a Jaguars player knocked him into an alternate dimension in Sunday’s AFC Championship game.)


But P&G failed on several other fronts

I’m sure the people at P&G are annoyed that a product designed for laundry is now a health issue due to intentional misuse. But the company needs to step up — regardless of whether it’s at fault, it’s now part of a public health issue.

The Tide website still looks exactly as it used to. There is a “Safe Use Guide” link, but it doesn’t draw attention to itself.

And the CEO just released a blog post that’s pretty mild:

Safety is No Laughing Matter

Monday, January 22, 2018 4:00 pm EST

CEO David Taylor shares perspective on P&G’s efforts to keep people safe and encourage good decisions by teens and young adults.

Like parents everywhere, I can make a pretty good argument that my kids are the greatest. And, like parents everywhere, beyond keeping them safe, one of my greatest responsibilities was to prepare them to be responsible adults.

As my kids became teens, they naturally sought more freedom in their lives to do things like drive, go out with friends and stay out later. My job of ensuring their safety increasingly became more about teaching them what it means to behave responsibly so they could make good decisions on their own.

As a father, seeing recent examples of young people intentionally take part in self-harming challenges like ingesting large amounts of cinnamon or the so-called “Tide Pods Challenge” is extremely concerning.

The possible life altering consequences of this act, seeking internet fame, can derail young people’s hopes and dreams and ultimately their health.

Ensuring the safety of the people who use our products is fundamental to everything we do at P&G. However, even the most stringent standards and protocols, labels and warnings can’t prevent intentional abuse fueled by poor judgment and the desire for popularity.

As P&G’s CEO, I assure you we’re working with our partners to do what we can to stop this dangerous trend, including ensuring social media networks are removing videos that glorify this harmful behavior, partnering with advocacy and industry groups to help spread the word that this is dangerous behavior not to be copied, and releasing this public service announcement that is designed to reach teens and young adults – in addition to other steps we’ve taken.

And, I’m also asking for your help.

Let’s all take a moment to talk with the young people in our lives and let them know that their life and health matter more than clicks, views and likes.  Please help them understand that this is no laughing matter.

This post is a failure. The title doesn’t get to the point. The first few paragraphs don’t either. It’s philosophical and musing where it should be firm and unequivocal. Someone has told this CEO that blogs are informal and casual, rather than clear and authentic.

What the CEO should have posted

It’s not that hard to do this right. Here’s what Taylor should have written:

Don’t eat Tide Pods. You’ll get really sick.

by David Taylor, CEO, Procter & Gamble

Tide is a laundry product, not a pretty piece of candy. If you put it in your mouth, you’ll get really sick. Unless you want to end up in the hospital, don’t eat a Tide Pod.

We designed Tide to get out smells and stains and make your laundry smell fresh. Well, it turns out that your insides are made of the same sort of stuff as some of those laundry stains. The Tide Pod will attack your throat and stomach lining and even make it difficult to breathe. As a challenge, this one is pretty lame — it will just make you ill.

If you’re a parent, keep Tide away from your toddlers. And look; I know how hard it is to talk to teenagers. But you can certainly share a laugh. So open up this Gronk video on your phone and show it to them, okay?

We’ll keep making great laundry products and putting warning labels on them. You help keep your kids safe. Then we’ll all be better off.



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  1. I believe Tide should have been even more direct (than your version) given the potential for long term health issues (eating a hole in my stomach!?)

    Subject Line: If You Eat A Tide Pod, You Can Be Screwed For Life
    – apologies for the language, but direct and in a young person’s vernacular will form a more lasting impression or at least get a teenager to read the next line

    – Enlist popular music, video and sports (skateboarding, X-Games, etc.) personalities. Gronk, for all his appeal, is more appropriate for 20-somethings through, well, 90-somethings.

    – Include a photo of a stomach with a hole in it. They must exist through the use of arthroscopy. Kids respond to images.

    – Appealing to adults and parents is almost useless (and if you have teenagers or spend time around them when they’re free from their parents, you should know what I mean.) Kids get their hands on whatever they want to get their hands on, unfortunately.

  2. If kids started eating razor blades as a “challenge” would we blame Gillette (also P&G)? Here’s a better blog title to be addressed to teens: Don’t Be Dumb Ass
    You don’t need to say anything more than that.

    1. Interesting reaction, Carl. I don’t blame P&G for the Tide Pod problem, and would not blame them if kids started eating razor blades. But if 39 people had ended up in emergency rooms as a result of eating razor blades in January, I do think P&G would have to at least say something.

  3. You nailed it Josh.

    The tide website should have a ‘tide-pod challenge’ with a big don’t circle on it that leads to the simple direct ‘don’t do this’ with the details like you called out. They need to be proactive. Maybe even consider changing packaging label to warn not to take the challenge.

    Would duller colors for pods really cause consumers to not buy/use them?

  4. As my son tweeted over the weekend: Imagine living in a country so stupid that people will only realize that they shouldn’t eat soap if a football player tells them not to.