The Tide Pod Challenge is the perfect example of a viral video that had a very negative effect on a product. In 9 out of 10 cases, marketers love viral videos because it means tons of attention and increased user engagement. But in this case, the reason the product went viral was because of a dangerous challenge by YouTube users for people to eat laundry detergent pods, of all things.
The irony here is that Tide had nothing to do with posting the video, but still had to deal with the fallout in a speedy and authoritative way.
I personally think Tide did a fantastic job. First, they immediately got YouTube to take down every video that was promoting the Tide Pod Challenge. And second, they hit up their social media channels with attractive and relevant content about the dangers of eating Tide Pods. They then followed all of this up by opening their channels for user questions.
They didn’t shy away from the controversy or try to explain it away as just some ‘dumb kids doing dumb stuff.’ Instead, they strongly expressed the consequences of taking the challenge, which included possible death.
And look what’s happened since.
People are using Tide Pod GIFs and creating their own funny videos that point out how dumb it is for anyone to attempt to eat these pods. Tide turned the bad publicity into a master class for business owners on how to use potential calamities to their advantage. They made sure to communicate with their audience the dangers of eating Tide Pods, but they also made sure not to apologize for the viral videos, because they were not responsible for that content. This is one of the few examples of branding in which a business can gain even more credibility and audience respect by providing valuable information, and putting the onus on customers to act responsibly when using a product that isn’t made for consumption.
If someone uses your product in a way is not intended, and that becomes a PR nightmare, following Tide’s example can be effective:
- Acknowledge the problem
- Provide solutions
- Open up your social media channels for audience questions
- Take no responsibility for the actions of the people who misused your product