Tide’s Super Bowl Ads Helped Maintain Sales Despite the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’

YouGov BrandIndex suggests perception is bad, but consumers are still buying the detergent

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When teens across the country decided it might be fun to eat Tide Pods (or dare their friends to eat Tide Pods), the brand hit a bit of a rough patch. New research from YouGov BrandIndex shows that in the months following the Tide pod ordeal, perception of the brand has still not fully recovered, but that negative view of Tide hasn’t hurt sales.

In those months, when teens were challenging each other to eat the colorful laundry detergent pods, consumer perception of the brand reached its lowest point in at least nine years, per YouGov BrandIndex. YouGov, which tracks public perception of major brands, found it interesting then, that even amidst one of the Tide’s low points, the P&G brand is still managing to sell detergent.

As of this week, 22 percent of those surveyed said they purchased Tide in the last 30 days. That compares to 21 percent of consumers who were surveyed in the days following the Super Bowl. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Tide is out of the woods just yet. The brand’s perception among consumers is still being hit hard, as most brands would be in the wake of a PR crisis.

What might Tide’s saving grace be? Those 2018 Super Bowl ads from Saatchi & Saatchi starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour.

While the series of ads that ran during the game—a total of four ads across the four quarters of the game—boosted awareness about the brand in the days and weeks immediately following the Big Game, YouGov found that the ads are still having a sizable impact on the Tide brand.

When it comes to advertising, Tide is at its highest ad awareness level since August 2016. 33 percent of people over the age of 18 said they’ve seen a Tide ad in the last 30 days, compared to 34 percent in the days following the Super Bowl. YouGov BrandIndex interviewed 36,000 adults, ages 18 and over, between January 2017 and April 2018 to collect its most recent data on the brand.

“It’s what can be called a triumph of marketing, Tide’s current customers and ad awareness have been rising to impressively high levels for the past three weeks alone,” Ted Marzilli, YouGov BrandIndex CEO, said. “None of that has affected the depressed perception levels of Tide. To me, it seems people are very attached to the Tide brand, likely spurred on by the clever ads, despite the bad taste still in their mouths (pun intended) about the Pod Challenge.”

“While the Tide Pods crisis is not on the same deeply negative scale as a VW or Chipotle,  it is still following true to form in the crisis pattern we see often. Many, but not all brands, take years to get back to where they were before,” Marzilli said.

Consumer perception of the brand, as measured by YouGov, has still not bounced back to its original high dating back to early 2017. After a steep dip from a Buzz Score of 18 down to 10 in January (around the time the Tide Pod challenge was really taking off), the brand’s perception has only recovered to about 14.

“It’s possible Tide won’t take as long as those brands since they didn’t endure a severe negative perception hit as the others. Tide may look to Samsung as an example of a relatively speedy recovery: after their exploding Galaxy Note phones rocked their brand two years ago, they quickly recalled them and replaced them with safer units. Short-term pain, long-term gain,” he added.


@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.
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