P&G also found that consumers were tired of lugging around bulky seven-pound bottles of Tide detergent, measuring and pouring liquid detergent into a cup, and then cleaning up the inevitable spills. Laundry has become a terrible chore.
The company needed to develop something so out of the ordinary to convince consumers to ditch liquid detergents. The company set out to develop a distinctive, palm-sized, liquid-filled detergent capsule that would grab the attention of shoppers on the shelf and make doing laundry more fun.
In 2012, eight years later, P&G finally introduced Tide Pods to America, a delightful package of blue, orange and white concentrated detergent.
Tide Pods were a breakthrough success. But P&G created a product so visually compelling and irresistible that it inadvertently became a public health risk.
Entering the US market in 1946 as the first synthetic detergent, Tide has long been one of the most important P&G brands on a list that includes Gillette, Pampers, Dawn, Bounty and other staples of American homes.
Tide came to dominate the detergent sector and at one point was the largest P&G brand in the US. Within the company, working on Tide was a highly coveted job and often a stepping stone to senior management.
Tide Pods was not P&G’s first attempt at a laundry tablet.
In 1960, P&G released Salvo, a compressed powder tablet. It has been on the market for about five years. In 2000, P&G introduced Tide Tabs: tablets filled with laundry detergent. But two years later, the company took them off the market – powder tablets did not always dissolve completely and only worked in hot water.
“We didn’t even get close to the target,” one former P&G employee later told The Wall Street Journal.
P&G’s next attempt—creating a liquid pod that would eventually become Tide Pods—was an extremely difficult engineering challenge. It was attended by over 75 employees and 450 different packaging and product sketches. Thousands of consumers were surveyed.
The goal was to “disrupt ‘washing in your sleep’ among consumers who ‘automatically pick up’ detergent,” P&G’s North American fabric care marketing director told The New York Times. “We want to shake up this category with innovation.”
On the 2012 Oscars televised show, P&G featured Tide Pods in a shiny, colorful commercial with the slogan “Pop In. stand out. In the video, customers were asked to “insert” Tide Pods into the washing machine and watch their clothes “explode” brightly. P&G spent $150 million on an ad campaign that offered consumers Tide Pods.
“Products that imitate food”
Within a year, Tide Pods sales in North America exceeded $500 million and controlled about 75% of the disposable laundry bag market, the company said at the time. The product was so successful that other manufacturers rushed to create similar versions.
The Tide Pods have appealed to customers for their lightweight construction, blue, orange and white striped swirl and soft, plush feel.
Today, it has a patented three-chamber design that separates detergent (green compartment), stain remover (white) and bleach (blue). P&G didn’t say why they changed the colors.
Even the packaging of Tide Pods was different.
The company designed a clear, aquarium-shaped plastic container that made the pods stand out clearly on the shelf. The researchers found that people also liked the way the Tide Pods felt in their hands.
According to Dr. Frederick Basso, a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science who has researched the trend, the design of the Tide Pods reflected a long-standing strategy by consumer goods manufacturers to develop cleaning and personal care products that displayed the attributes of eating or drinking. , known as “food imitation products”.
Other examples of this tactic include bottles in the form of soft drinks and labels with colorful fruits.
By designing products that create links to food, games, or other positive experiences, Basso says, customers are less likely to automatically associate those items with unpleasant or boring work.
“Tidal pods obviously remind people of food, especially foods that were created for children,” John Allen, an anthropologist at Indiana University and author of The Omnivorous Mind: Our Evolving Relationship with Food, said in an email. It is “bite-sized, processed, colorful, with a non-threatening texture, something like a cross between candy and chicken nugget.”
But the advent of Tide Pods was fraught with an unforeseen threat.
Young children and elderly people with dementia began to put them in their mouths. Within two months of the launch of Tide Pods, nearly 250 cases were reported in poison control centers across the United States of young children ingesting detergent packets.
P&G quickly responded to security concerns by making Tide Pods packaging harder to open with a double latch on the lid. A year later, the packaging was changed to orange from the original clear plastic, reminiscent of candy bowls. Since then, P&G has made a number of other changes to make Tide Pods safer for children, as well as improved warning labels.
P&G said accidents with young children are primarily due to improper storage and access to laundry bags, not the color of the containers. The company pointed to a 2017 study that found that color doesn’t play a major role in accidental contact with laundry containers.
The company is running an ongoing Tide Pods safety campaign to educate consumers about the correct use and storage of the product, a P&G spokesperson said. It includes advertising and content partnerships with online parenting channels.
However, in 2013 and 2014, laundry detergent capsules from Tide and others were responsible for two deaths and two dozen life-threatening poisonings. According to one study, more than 37,000 calls were received to US poison control centers in those years involving children under the age of six.
Between 2012 and 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported eight deaths. Two of the patients were young children and six were adults with dementia.
In 2015, Consumer Reports stated that laundry pods are too risky to recommend due to safety concerns.
That same year, P&G and other manufacturers adopted voluntary laundry bag standards aimed at reducing accidents involving young children. Under P&G’s guidance, the manufacturers agreed to store the capsules in opaque containers, coat them with a bitter or unpleasant-tasting substance, and harden them to reduce the risk of rupture when crushed.
A P&G spokesman said the standard has led to a sharp drop in accidents in recent years, even as more people use laundry bags.
Despite P&G’s efforts to make the packaging and design of Tide Pods safer and to warn consumers of the risks, in early 2018 a meme of “challenging” Tide Pods among teenagers daring others to swallow pods quickly spread across social media. Tide partnered with the then New England Patriots. tight end Rob Gronkowski to release a PSA and launched a social media safety campaign.
At the time, New York lawmakers called on P&G to redesign Tide Pods to look less edible. State legislators have introduced a bill requiring all detergents sold in New York to be a single color “unattractive to children.”
But P&G said accidents happen whether the product is clear, solid, or multi-color, and there is not enough evidence that any color is associated with increased safety.
Keeping Tide Pods out of the reach of children is the most important safety measure, according to the company.