Digital & Social Media

Home Bearing Gifts

Home Bearing Gifts

Campaign: Procter & Gamble-owned laundry detergent brand Tide has launched a campaign to help prevent every mother’s worst nightmare: dealing with sacks of dirty laundry brought home by their lazy student offspring.

In a bid to prevent Friday night tears of despair shed by mothers everywhere upon discovering their beloved children have returned home with yet more dirty clothes, Tide has created something called “My First Adult T-Shirt” that is emblazoned with the image of a mother bawling her eyes out. But — and here’s the clever bit — should their idle progeny take it upon themselves to avoid their mothers’ emotional trauma and wash the T-shirts themselves, the blue tears, which are actually made from specially printed Tide detergent, turn to soap and magically disappear.

The T-shirts, via Leo Burnett in Warsaw, were distributed for free to mothers whose children were about to leave home for university.

Contagious, FleishmanHillard’s Kanareck Weigh In

Contagious: Tide here has tapped into an insight that will be familiar to students and their families everywhere: They’d rather drag their laundry home to mum than turn on the washing machine themselves. This campaign uses the power of guilt to open up a potential new youth consumer base for Tide. And since every student who takes responsibility for their laundry might represent another box of Tide sold, it’s a smart move for the brand to engage with this group. In addition, by reaching out to a group that has never bought laundry detergent before, Tide is hoping that these students form a habit that carries on throughout their clothes-washing days. As Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit, people are more vulnerable to intervention by marketers during major life changes. And moving away from home is just one of these transformative moments where a brand’s messaging is more likely to stick.

While this campaign hits the right emotional note, there are practical elements here where the execution fails. The tone here is more than a little patronizing, and we can’t help but wonder about the efficacy of the mechanism. The T-shirt is a lovely metaphor, but the concept still relies on students doing their washing. Surely, if the students are as lazy as they’re painted to be, they won’t be inclined to act. And if their unwillingness to do laundry is less laziness and more inability, then we think Tide should have included fail-safe instructions on how to do laundry with its T-shirt.

Richard Kanareck: Like all good examples of brands looking to build emotional engagement, Tide has identified a deceptively simple and universal human truth at the core of its campaign — and one that is sure to bring a knowing smile to the lips of any parent. We’ve seen P&G take this same kind of insight-led approach at a corporate level with the much-praised “Best Job” advertising campaign that thanked mothers of Olympians leading up to the London Olympics in 2012.

Now, at an individual brand level with this execution for Tide, P&G is choosing to make you chuckle rather than make you weep. Although the actual implementation may be quite small in scale depending on the number of T-shirts distributed, the accompanying video that has been produced is sufficiently entertaining to attract enough ‘share’ and ‘like’ clicks to get considerable social play over the course of the campaign.

And of course, that’s the objective of a campaign like this. Sure, the T-shirt will undoubtedly be a talking point among those who physically get their hands on one, and will no doubt lead them to have impressive recall of Tide. Yet, the potential reach of the campaign will be inevitably much broader because it so successfully captures the humor in the age-old desire among human offspring for independence just as long as Mom keeps doing the laundry.

With multiple brands fighting day in, day out to win the newsfeed, it’s content like this – quick, likable, grounded in instantly familiar insight and crucially, sharable – that can create and carry forward little bursts of positive brand momentum.


About the author

This article was syndicated from Contagious Feed, an indispensable resource to the marketing communications industry focusing on competitive intelligence, best practices, new technology and consumer behavior. In addition to the flagship quarterly publication, app and Feed, Contagious has developed a consultancy and a series of world-class conferences, including its annual Most Contagious event.

Richard Kanareck serves as managing director of FleishmanHillard’s London office, overseeing a broad cross-section of clients. In addition, he serves on the agency’s Senior Management Committee. He has held roles on both the agency and corporate sides and is the former EU communications director of eBay. In this role, Kanareck led the communications and social media strategy to redefine the company’s brand perception across the region.