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The Tide Pod Challenge: Responding to the Threat of Viral Internet Phenomena

Blair M. Nelson, University of North Dakota, Patrick L. Schultz, University of North Dakota
August 10, 2020
North America
Marketing & Sales, Ethics & Social Justice
12 pages
social responsiblity, social media, reputation
Student Price: 
$4.00 (€3.67)
Average rating: 

When Proctor & Gamble introduced the Tide Pod line of laundry detergent products, it did not quite get the result that they expected. While the product was successful in the marketplace, it also sparked a bizarre viral reaction on the Internet. Teen-aged users of YouTube were posting videos of themselves eating the colorful detergent packs in what was known as the Tide Pod Challenge, resulting in gagging or choking but sometimes more serious incidents of hospitalization for poisoning. This unexpected Internet phenomenon gave rise to public discussion of what the company should do in reaction to prevent the misuse of its products, and politicians were considering whether a legislative response was required to compel companies to make their products safer. Meanwhile, the viral Tide Pod Challenge had not really produced a negative effect on sales of the product, magnifying the difficulty of choosing the right response.

Learning Outcomes: 
  1. Evaluate the social responsibility of a company to challenges from social media and viral phenomena.
  2. Assess a company’s response to challenges from the social and technological environment, particularly with respect to social media and viral phenomena.