Note to Tide: Detergent is Detergent

Posted on February 14, 2008
Filed Under Marketing 2.0 |

In on the absurdity of Forrester Research’s recommendation that marketers spend more money on social media advertising, I noted:

…consumers may love your products, but at the end of the day, toothpaste is toothpaste.

I recently hired a few marketing interns and am having them catalog all of the stupid social media marketing campaigns they can find on services like Facebook. I’m thinking about one day publishing a full-color, glossy coffee table book that serves as a visual compendium of the insanity of some of the social media marketing campaigns.

Last night one of my interns, Veronica, who I’ve personally trained to become a screen-capturing master, came across a true gem: the official 2x Ultra Tide Presents “America’s Favorite Stains” . Detergent manufacturer Tide apparently actually paid for a Social Ad, seen below, that directs Facebook users to the page. Meaning it’s not only losing money paying for the page itself, but losing money getting Facebook users to it.

What’s the purpose of this page? To apparently foster “community” and “conversation” around the company’s “America’s Favorite Stains” poll:

Tide is partnering with Citysearch to reveal “America’s Favorite Stains,” a nationwide poll where people across the country vote for the stains that result from enjoying the people, places and moments they love most.

How exciting! Just what America needs!

Of course, sometimes the “conversation” doesn’t exactly reinforce the image brands are looking for. It only took four Wall postings for “Joshua Ely” of Minnesota to discuss the stains nobody really likes to mention. Okay, Monica Lewinsky notwithstanding.

Unfortunately, this now-removed comment really isn’t any more degrading to Tide than Tide’s social media marketing campaign itself. At the end of the day, detergent is detergent. The Joshuas of the world might be glad that Tide’s products help them deal with their dirtiest problems, but discussing stains just isn’t a turn-on for the average consumer. Does Tide not realize that?

Apparently not, because it’s also paying money to run encouraging consumers to spoof its “talking stain” Super Bowl commercial. How this is actually going to generate some sort of tangible ROI for Tide is questionable. Right now, there are apparently . And it doesn’t look like the “” is about to go viral anytime soon. This is not to say that this social media marketing campaign hasn’t technically been implemented well; it’s just obvious that engaging people around a detergent is difficult to do.

It’s quite sad to see that more and more brands are apparently being conned into implementing campaigns similar in nature to Tide’s “America’s Favorite Stains” campaign. Not because they’re currently subsidizing but because stupidity, although entertaining, is, at the core, always more tragic than amusing.

Here’s a tip: before brands waste their money implementing marketing campaigns, they should consider their position in the world and in an average consumer’s life. Without a realistic assessment of their position and how they can best relate their product to the consumer, their social media marketing campaigns are probably doomed to mediocrity at best and complete failure at worst.

Disclaimer: Tide is owned by Procter & Gamble, a company that I still love because it has been a generous donor to my bank account. No hard feelings, right? I bought some Tide yesterday to remove a stain caused by a drop of 1996 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and promise to religiously recommend Tide to all my friends.

Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • Netvouz
  • ThisNext
  • Reddit
  • SphereIt
  • Slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
Print This Post Print This Post


8 Responses to “Note to Tide: Detergent is Detergent”

  1. Greg on February 15th, 2008 12:28 pm


    You make some good points in this post and it’s easy to see this campaign as a failure because, well, it’s failing. But what would your opinion or other’s be if Tide’s Facebook group/YouTube channel attracted millions of posts/videos? Would that be a success?

    I’d say maybe. Generating a conversation with users is great (if the product is worth talking about), but sometimes the users say stupid crap (that might actually hurt your brand). I doubt Tide wants people on Facebook talking about how they used Tide to remove stains from their bedsheets, or braf from their passed out friend.

    If Tide moderated the comments, they could protect their brand, but this moderating would work against the viral nature of the campaign.

    So can you generate buzz and money (the goals of marketing), for Tide via social networks? Probably not.

    I’d love to know how much they’re spending per day…


  2. Drama 2.0 on February 15th, 2008 1:04 pm

    Greg: Tide would have to convince me that its campaign produced some tangible ROI that either benefited the bottom line or the brand in some non-negligible way.

    , the cost of a Facebook page is $50,000 - $300,000. I’d imagine that a YouTube channel is equally expensive.

    Note that these amounts, relatively speaking, are small for a brand like Tide, but for what they’re getting in return, it’s completely excessive in my opinion. It’s akin to the government paying $10,000 for a screw or $150,000 for a toilet bowl cover.

    Outside of the obvious costs, it’s also worth pointing out that these campaigns often take more time and effort than expected. As you pointed out, for instance, many brands will feel inclined to “protect” themselves and thus have to invest in monitoring comments they don’t like, deciding what moderation policies are needed and taking action to implement them. And, of course, when they do, there’s the risk that they’ll have to defend themselves against accusations of censorship.

    Additionally, as you pointed out, Tide probably doesn’t want people talking about certain things. In my article on, I noted that a major brand my company is working with opted to avoid standard fare social media marketing campaigns. One of the things their marketing team mentioned in our discussions was that they don’t want to encourage consumers to make their brand part of “user-generated jokes,” even if the jokes are cute and harmless. Why? It just doesn’t benefit the brand. Consumers might remember and promote the joke, but is that really remembering and promoting the brand?

  3. bob Kasunic on February 15th, 2008 1:38 pm

    After having spent many, many years working at behemoth ad agencies and sitting in on (and in some sad cases leading) brainstroming sessions that resulted in egotistical ideas like this one, I can tell you that no one, and I mean no one, over estimates the relevance of their brand/product like a brand manager.

    But in their defense, you have to realize, these are people who live, eat and breath their product 24/7. The pressure for them to increase sales and market share of canned cat food is slightly more intense than that of the current democratic primary race.

    I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to just tell it like it is and let them know, “It’s just processed cheese wraps. No one cares as much as you.”

    If they could put that same amount of effort into ending hunger, then I’d share that app with my friends.

    Great post!

  4. on February 24th, 2008 3:03 am

    […] paltry results, it’s pretty obvious that brands paying $50,000 to $300,000 for Facebook pages are wasting their money and the company’s “innovative” experiments, such as the […]

  5. Adam on March 3rd, 2008 1:55 am

    While I understand the social advertising thing may work on some level with certain types of things (take for instance, certain types of high end software made for niche markets of creative professionals or artists - there are legit reasons for them to network and discuss contextually relevant items)… it’s all gotten totally insane. I swear people are just looking for excuses to web 2.0 anything they can find. The sad thing is that there are always a handful of people that will think it’s “neat” and will get into it for whatever reason.

    Aside from it all,
    I really can’t think of anything more boring on the internet than discussing why I needed to conduct certain household chores.

  6. Zuckerberg’s Zany Comparisons : The Drama 2.0 Show on July 24th, 2008 12:30 pm

    […] In other words, Facebook has given up on the hope that it can actually drive results for advertisers (wasn’t that the point of Beacon?) and now wants to pitch brand advertisers on Facebook’s ability to boost awareness via the ads that its users ignore and the groups that its users don’t use. […]

  7. Michael Leis on July 30th, 2008 10:39 am

    Well said, but I think both you and Tide are overlooking some stuff.

    1) It’s the first of what should be many experiments from a brand like Tide. They’re trying, and that’s good.

    2) They haven’t thought at all about how they can help people, or facilitate a conversation or actions via the online presence of that brand. Should it be as simple as a laundry timer that reminds you when to switch your laundry?

    Tide miracle stain-removal stories? Some people will actually talk on and on about how clean something got. In this current iteration, they’re asking people to talk about their problems. Who wants to hear about problems in the context of any brand?

  8. Drama 2.0 on July 30th, 2008 12:59 pm

    Michael: experimentation in and of itself isn’t worthwhile if there are no goals and the outcome is realistically not going to be of tangible benefit.

    I think you miss the major point here: Tide is a detergent. I don’t want Proctor & Gamble to “facilitate a conversation.”

    And I don’t need useless tools such as a laundry timer that reminds me when to switch my laundry. I can keep track of time with my watch, thank you very much. Have been doing it for years and it seems to be working fine so far.

    So what do I want Tide to do? Clean my clothes. Nothing more, nothing less. That’s the extent of my “relationship” with Tide.

Leave a Reply


Lead Sponsor

Drama 2.0's indulgent jet-set lifestyle is supported by Drama 2.0 Show lead sponsor . For more information about MySites, click here.


Drama 2.0 spikes the Web 2.0 kool aid by providing critical analyses of Web 2.0, its people, its startups and its impact on the world of media. Other topics are explored when Drama 2.0 has been drinking too much 1975 Dom Perignon. Read more about the Internet's version of Keyser Söze here.