Maytag Plug-In Eliminates Political Smears From Social Media

Effort Dovetails With Launch of Smudge-Resistant Stainless Steel

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Credit: Whirlpool Corp.

Ever wish you could block negative political commentary from your social-media feeds? Maytag believes it has found a way to do so and help sell stainless-steel appliances at the same time.

The Whirlpool Corp. brand is launching a plug-in for the Chrome desktop browser that that will replace political "smears" with humorous content it promises will be non-annoying. The idea is to promote Maytag's fingerprint- and smear-resistant stainless steel, available on all of its new appliances.

Maytag embarked on the project because of two pieces of feedback from consumers, said Brendan Bosch, senior brand manager. "The first was that stainless steel can be really difficult to clean and easy to get dirty," he said. "The second was more about social media, that most people find negative political chatter to be one of the most annoying things they come across. So we thought it would be fun to combine both of those insights by creating a plug-in."

The Maytag plug-in blocks negative political content with images like this.
The Maytag plug-in blocks negative political content with images like this. Credit: Whirlpool Corp.

A survey commissioned by Maytag found political smears are the most irritating topic on social media, with more than half of Americans surveyed finding such content annoying and 73% of respondents saying they have unfollowed, blocked or hidden posts from another person because they didn't like the content shared.

"We thought it would be nice to find a way to block the content without blocking the person," Mr. Bosch said. "So things you do like, the baby pictures or other forms of communication, come through."

With the desktop app, content identified as containing political smears, using keywords identified by University of Michigan political scientist Arthur Lupia, will be blocked with a more politically neutral image, such as that of George Washington or a bald eagle. Users can see when the content has been blocked and unhide it if they choose.

Mr. Lupia worked to target negative political discourse without bias toward any candidate or party. That involved targeting the names of candidates and words for political issues combined with a surprisingly wide array of "smear words," which he characterized as "things that never elevate discourse, you never want to say in front of your children or parents."

That includes "a lot of potty words I didn't know existed before," he said. "People are very creative with scatological references."

Maytag decided to loosen the Chrome restraints sufficiently to let less inflammatory rhetoric and news coverage through, Mr. Bosch said. The landing page where people can download the plug-in also leads to official candidate pages, so people who want to get educated on the options available can. And because the plug-in doesn't work on mobile browsers or apps, there all the political content will remain in its unfiltered glory.

To promote the app, and the fingerprint-resistant appliances, Maytag will use Facebook advertising and a partnership with The Onion, plus publicity efforts by comedian spokeswoman Abby Elliot to help raise awareness of the plug-in and promote positivity during the election season.

Publicis Groupe's DigitasLBi and Rosetta handled digital marketing, tech development and social media, with Omnicom's Ketchum handling PR.

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