If there’s one guarantee on the internet, it’s that dumb trends and memes will go viral, and someone will try to make a quick buck off them. The ill-advised Tide Pod Challenge was no different.
The challenge encouraged teens to chew on Tide laundry detergent pods to make their mouths froth and foam. All right, there’s admittedly some entertainment value in that, theoretically — except that the detergent pods contain all sorts of deadly chemicals such as ethanol and hydrogen peroxide.
Not so entertaining after all.
Videos of the challenge are being pulled from YouTube for violating community guidelines by encouraging viewers to participate in potentially harmful activities. Still, there have been 39 reports of teens deliberately misusing the product in the first two weeks of 2018 alone, indicating that the trend is still going strong despite the obvious risks of participation.
Some may say it’s in poor taste to poke fun at or capitalize on such a dangerous fad, which can cause burns to the digestive system, seizures, loss of consciousness and other health issues. But that didn’t stop these brands from riding the coattails of the viral trend — and it seems to be working out for them.
Viral begets viral, or so it would seem. Hey — it worked for all those bars serving Pokémon Go-themed drinks, and for Starbucks or anyone else serving up anything unicorn-inspired. In the attention economy, it doesn’t matter whether the media is cheering brands on or criticizing their lack of sensitivity; it simply matters that the media has taken notice at all.
The meme machine will do the rest.
Eat This, Not That
Few outside the Midwest had heard of Hurts Donut before this week. Now, the entire country knows about the company, thanks to a viral post of a donut frosted to look like a Tide pod. A snarky caption rounded out the post: “I thought this might clear up any confusion there might have been, but now adults are throwing donuts in the washer.”
Similarly, a Brooklyn pizzeria released the bite-sized “Pied Pods” stuffed with mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. So far, so good. It even has extra cheese on top. Oh … but that cheese is … dyed blue? For better or for worse, the whole country now knows about Vinnie’s Pizzeria, too.
“We’re hoping that Pied Pods will be a gateway food for kids to get back into actual food,” the company quipped in an Instagram post of the snack, which Instagram soon removed from the platform.
Duff’s Alcohol Abuse Center, a metal bar also located in Brooklyn, brewed up a Tide pods shot. The secret ingredients have not been revealed, but rest assured that laundry detergent isn’t one of them, even if the dual-colored drink may appear to fit the bill.
Brutally, Duff’s hashtagged an Instagram post of the shot with, “#Darwinism.”
Finally, this one’s not for sale, but a Redditor shared an image of a friend’s homemade Tide Pod sushi that looks uncannily like the real thing, including colorful, very squishy-looking pouches on top.
Clearly, this is a trend that has lent itself to a lot of visual satire, and whether that’s in good taste or not, it’s definitely generating a little extra revenue and a lot of extra web traffic for brands that have decided to capitalize on the weird cultural phenomenon.