One chip, several problems

Brands can face consequences for dangerous marketing stunts. Paqui’s One Chip Challenge is just the latest.

Paqui’s One Chip Challenge involves what is supposedly the world’s hottest chip, spiced with:

A red coffin-shaped package with a yellow skull on it, reading “Paqui” and “One Chip Challenge” on a red background.
  • Carolina Reaper peppers (~1.6m Scoville units)
  • Naga Viper peppers (~1.4m Scoville units)

For reference, a jalapeno comes in at 5k Scoville units, and the hot sauce that made Jennifer Lawrence cry on an episode of “Hot Ones” rated 135.6k.

The single chip retailed for ~$10, and those who dared to eat it were encouraged to post their reaction to social media. It was already a bad idea — a chip that hot would absolutely cause pain — and then it got worse.


… a subsidiary of The Hershey Co., labeled the product “for adults only,” but teens had no issues getting their hands on it:

  • Some were sent to the school nurse or hospital.
  • Worse, Harris Wolobah, 14, died shortly after eating the chip, though his death has not been directly connected to the chip.

Rapper T.I.’s son, King Harris, also faced backlash after posting himself bribing an unhoused man to eat the chip.

Paqui is now working to remove the chips from shelves.

Marketing stunts gone bad

Parents and schools have attempted to hold social media platforms accountable for dangerous or destructive challenges, but brands can also face consequences:

  • LifeLock CEO Todd Davis was so confident in his company’s identity protection service, he shared his social security number. His identity was successfully stolen 13x — and so were the identities of several LifeLock customers. The FTC fined LifeLock $12m for deceptive advertising.
  • In 2007, a radio station held a competition that promised a free Wii to whoever could hold their “wee” the longest after drinking a ton of water, despite warnings of the dangers. A 28-year-old participant later died of water intoxication; a jury awarded her family $16.5m.

By rushing to offer refunds and pulling the product from shelves, Paqui’s doing the right thing — but the One Chip Challenge was a bad idea from the jump.

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