Times Square and Toilet Paper


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Toilet Paper. How do you successfully build an engaging, loyalty-building brand story around that product?

Just ask the ace marketers at Proctor & Gamble and they’ll likely tell you about the 20 free, deluxe Charmin restrooms opened in New York’s Time Square for the 2007 holiday season. At the same location in 2006, the Charmin Holiday rest rooms served more than 420,000 people from 100 countries and all 50 states, so a 2007 encore was in order.

But free, family-friendly restrooms and ample toilet tissue were just one part of the unique, memorable brand story crafted by the Charmin team. First, friendly folks dressed as dancing toilets greeted passersby on the street, inviting them to visit the Charmin Holiday Restrooms nearby. Visitors then took escalators up and wove through a rope line while a legion of smiling hosts wearing Charmin apparel greeted them and upbeat holiday music played in the background. Inside the stalls (serviced by staff after every use), Ultra Strong and Ultra Soft tissue were available and afterwards, guests were asked to vote for their favorite.

Next, guests could jump into one of several winter-wonderland dioramas and have their picture made with the Charmin bear; or guests could go on stage and do the Charmin dance, while their image was captured on flatscreen monitors surrounding the stage. For those holiday-weary guests who simply wanted to rest for a bit, a fireplace and comfortable seating awaited. Bottomline, a lot of unexpected, family-friendly holiday memories were made…all because of a toilet paper brand.

Many people got the message. Besides the brand story ‘told’ in person to the nearly half million Charmin Holiday Restroom visitors during the 2007 season, an impressive 100 traditional media reported on the project followed by a strong wave of social media including Flickr, You Tube, and countless marketing blogs and forums, etc. (Hey, you’re reading another one right now!)

Loyalty Lesson: As fellow Austinite and Brand Autopsy blogger, John Moore, so aptly put it, “This is further evidence…there is no such thing as boring product categories, just boring products!” Make 2008 the year for finding your brand’s story and engaging your customers with it!

Jill Griffin
Griffin Group
Jill Griffin is a "Harvard Working Knowledge" author of three books on customer loyalty. She serves as public board director for Luby's Cafeterias, Fuddruckers and Jimmy Buffets' Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants. Microsoft, Dell, Marriott Hotels, Ford, Toyota, Wells Fargo, IBM, Subaru are a few of the clients served since she hung out her "Loyalty Maker" shingle in 1988. Jill delivers customized keynotes worldwide. Sign up for her monthly loyalty tip at www.loyaltysolutions.com.


  1. Jill,

    Here is another version of making paper less boring and utilitarian. In this case I am referring to paper for printing. When full color digital printing presses came on the market there was a limited number of stocks to choose from. This bothered graphics designer who were use to a nearly unlimited select for conventional presses. Soon more stocks became available. But, digital printing companies got use to stocking a limited range, it saved them having money tied up in inventory. Since one of the virtues of digital printing is fast-turnaround, they would have had to have all the stocks in their facility.

    One paper company realized that the whole market was being held back by the full array of stocks not being available to the ultimate customer, the graphic designer. To overcome the problem, they offered to place a full assortment of papers in a printer’s facility on consignment. The printer paid only when they used it. The design community was happy with the enhanced service and could find more projects for digital presses. Of course, the paper company expanded their market size. Everyone won.

    Even printing paper is a commodity until someone enables others to get more meaning or value from the experiences they have with it.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.
    Author of Addicted Customers: How to Get Them Hooked on Your Company.

  2. John

    Did everyone really win. I don’t think so. Inventory costs money and not only for storage. Someone has to pay for those costs. And do you know who? My bet is that it was the poor customer, who was surcharged for the printing industry’s inefficient supply chain practices.

    As they say in poker, “If you don’t know who in the room is the sucker, it’s probably you”. We have all been suckered.

    That’s why we have Lean Printing today.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  3. No one really came out a winner in this war.

    The paper mills lost sight of their true market volume and, instead of making improvements in operating efficiencies to control costs, they blindly kept on pushing volume, volume, volume. Now we have paper mills closing across North America and failed attempts to have high tariffs on foreign imports.

    Printers were locked in a bidding war just to fill their presses. Now one of the largest, Quebecor, teeters on the edge of insolvency. More than 7,500 printing establishments of every size have closed for one reason or another in the last 10 years. This has cost many, many good paying jobs.

    One might say the consumer was the ultimate winner, but look at the economy. Some of those consumers were the very people thrown out of work when the print plants and paper mills were closed.

    Nobody won.

    Graham – thanks for the

  4. OK, this is a silly question, and it has next to nothing to do with customer management (or does it?), but seeing as you’ve brought this up. Ever since P&G/Charmin launched the campaign with the two new types of toilet paper, I’ve wondered why we have to choose between soft and strong. Wouldn’t everyone want both? It’s such a gimmick, and I keep wondering which paper product will disappear from the shelves to make room for yet another “flavor.” I get very tired of seeing my favorite grocery brands disappear from the shelves because, for instance, Nabisco has introduced yet another version of the Oreo.

    Gwynne Young, Managing Editor, CustomerThink


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