January is a bit of a grey month and so it’s always nice to come across a good old PR fail in order to inject a bit of humour into this rather flat time of year. This latest story comes courtesy of Play Doh, perhaps one of the most common brands of household toys in the world. Most of us had Play Doh in our lives at some point growing up – but perhaps not like this latest release from the brand.
As the dust settled after Christmas and all the Play Doh presents had been unwrapped and were being played with, a number of rather upset parents began taking to social media in order to express concerns that the innocent toys they had purchased for their kids as part of Santa’s haul had taken on a rather more sinister shape once out of the box. Some parents had found themselves embarrassed by relatives who accused them of allowing their children to play with a sex toy because, unfortunately, the latest Play Doh release bore more than a slight resemblance to a dildo.
In fact, the penis shaped design is a two-piece syringe-like toy that is intended to be used for cake decorating. The problem is that Play Doh unfortunately didn’t have the foresight not to make it pink or to remove the corkscrew style ridges around the outside, which caused many to compare it to a famous brand of vibrator. The fact that the toy has a hole in the top through which the Play Doh is squeezed has simply added insult to injury for many.
Looking at the toy, it’s hard to believe that someone somewhere didn’t spot the potential for disaster. However, this sort of thing has happened in the past and will most likely happen again as even the biggest international brands can fall foul of a collective dirty mind. When Hasbro – the manufacturer of Play Doh – began receiving complaints via its Facebook page the smart company began responding immediately, demonstrating the advantages of using social media for customer service, including the chance to respond quickly and apologise publicly.
As the furore over the toys has grown online, the attention it has generated has also allowed the company to get its own response out there quickly and now all reports of the incident, as well as the places in which it is mentioned online, are accompanied by an acknowledgement of the problem and a statement that Hasbro is “in the process of updating all future Play-Doh products with a different tool.” The company has also been able to offer offended customers a replacement in order to head off further displeasure. As a result, what could have blown up into a global scandal with a large number of irritated customers is now simply laughed off as an unfortunate mistake with the brand suffering no permanent damage.
While this incident hilariously illustrates how sometimes big brands can’t see the wood for the trees with their own products, it also serves to demonstrate just how important it is to embrace the new horizons of customer service by social media in 2015.