Going where no brand has gone; Providing samples is a relatively simple affair for many products. For toilet paper brands, however, getting consumers to try the product on the spot is decidedly more complicated

Going where no brand has gone


NEW YORK — Providing samples is a relatively simple affair for many products, whether it is fragrance brand representatives spritzing consumers in department stores or snack brand representatives handing out tortilla chips in supermarkets. For toilet paper brands, however, getting consumers to try the product on the spot is decidedly more complicated.


NEW YORK — Providing samples is a relatively simple affair for many products, whether it is fragrance brand representatives spritzing consumers in department stores or snack brand representatives handing out tortilla chips in supermarkets. For toilet paper brands, however, getting consumers to try the product on the spot is decidedly more complicated.In 2000, Charmin introduced Potty Palooza, travelling bathroom facilities stocked with Charmin toilet paper, which appeared at state fairs and other events across the United States for the next five years. And during the holiday shopping seasons from 2006 to 2010, it set up Charmin restrooms in a building near Times Square in New York that were fastidiously maintained by attendants and that the brand says welcomed — yes, there were greeters — over 1.5 million users.

“We’re starting a movement,” the brand says in a website for what it calls the Charmin Relief Project, “to bring a better bathroom experience to all.”

The latest effort finds the Procter & Gamble brand transporting trailers with about 20 restrooms to National Football League (NFL) stadiums, where pre-game revellers can use what the company is calling Charmin Tailgating Potties.

A new commercial for the brand features video from the first NFL outing, the season opener with the Denver Broncos hosting the Baltimore Ravens last month.

“That was an awesome experience,” says one female fan in the commercial. As a fan in a Broncos T-shirt and hard hat exits a bathroom holding his arms up victoriously, a voice-over says: “Tailgating Potties — one more way that the Charmin Relief Project is helping people enjoy the go.”

The television commercial, which was introduced on Oct 14 and is appearing widely in the US, is by Publicis Kaplan Thaler, New York — part of the US division of Publicis Worldwide owned by the Publicis Groupe.

The roving restrooms will visit four stadiums, the last outing being in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, when the Cowboys will host the Oakland Raiders.


Mr Scott Mautz, Marketing Director for Charmin, said the object of the promotion was to “surprise and delight” fans who were expecting the breath-holding experience of using portable toilets.

“Some of our most comforting bathroom experiences are at home, and you don’t get that when you’re on the road,” Mr Mautz said. “We’re working really hard to duplicate the home-field advantage of a really great bathroom experience.”

Charmin, which declined to reveal its expenditure for the effort, spent US$72.3 million (S$89.3 million) on advertising last year, according to Kantar Media, a unit of WPP. Its rival Cottonelle spent US$41.5 million.

In keeping with the disaster-relief efforts of the P&G brands Tide, which sends a mobile laundromat to provide free drop-off laundry service to disaster areas, and Duracell, which sends a mobile unit to charge devices and distribute free batteries, Charmin sends mobile bathrooms and product donations to disaster areas.

Mr Joe Waters, co-author of Cause Marketing for Dummies, said that, while the tailgating promotion was not exactly a charitable effort, the competitive benefits to Charmin were akin to what brands gain from cause marketing.

“The key value here is need, and the brand being there when you need it,” Mr Waters said. “That could be after a disaster, when you don’t have toilet paper or when you’re tailgating.”

While advertising and marketing increase brands’ visibility, Mr Waters said efforts like the latest by Charmin gave them something else that they strive for: Favourability.

“Brands want to be there for you when you need them,” said Mr Waters, “so that when the brand needs you when you’re at the store, it sticks out in your mind.”

Charmin led the US$8.4 billion toilet paper category with a 28.6 per cent share of the market, according to data for the 52 weeks ending Oct 6 from market data firm IRI.


Whipple, the grocer played by the actor Dick Wilson who shooed away shoppers for fondling “squeezably soft” Charmin, appeared in commercials from 1964 until 1985, and returned for a final campaign in 1999.

The brand introduced its animated bear mascots in 2000, and in 2007, after nearly 80 years of trumpeting softness, split into distinct varieties: Ultra Soft, which continued to promise softness, and Ultra Strong, which promised durability. A third offering, Charmin Basic, introduced in 2005, promotes a balance of softness and strength at a lower price.

The shift grew out of research with consumers about preferences, and led the brand to divide toilet paper users into what the brand’s Mr Mautz identified as three camps: Passionates, planners and practicals.

Passionates are Ultra Soft users who “when in the bathroom want some extra ‘me’ time”, Mr Mautz said. Planners are Ultra Strong users who “want to get in and get out” and “get superclean” with the confidence that they won’t puncture the toilet paper in their haste or leave any fragments behind, he continued. And practicals are Basic users, who want a balance of softness, strength and affordability.

Advertising for the brand often pitches the benefits of one product, with the bears in a given ad presented in a variety’s signature colour, either red (Ultra Strong), blue (Ultra Soft) or orange (Basic). Far from the euphemistic era of Whipple, Charmin advertising today is more direct about toilet paper’s function, with recent advertising, for example, promising that the Ultra Strong variety will help keep children’s underwear clean.

The brand is also spurring frank talk from consumers, whom Charmin is encouraging to send Twitter messages from bathrooms using the hashtag #tweetfromtheseat.

“Mum. I’m in the bathroom,” a Twitter user, Payton_Berens, posted using the hashtag Sept 30. “The last thing I want you to do is talk through the door to me.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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