Charmin’s Lesson on Being Photogenic

Tuesday night, whilst wandering the now sanitized-to-Disney-proportions streets of Times Square in New York City, I was accosted by a dancing toilet.

Charmin RestroomNo, I was not doing anything illicit. There was an actual dancing toilet taking pictures with passersby and inviting me into a building to use one of Charmin’s remarkably clean restrooms opened just for the holidays in Times Square. I had seen the story of this attraction in “traditional” media coverage some weeks ago – they even hired ex-SNLer Molly Shannon to add her B-list star power to the clean potty project.

What I found was far more remarkable than the summary I had seen. The experience P&G has created educates about product differentiation, creates an emotional brand connection, and exposes the user to a host of ancillary brands (Puffs with Vicks to calm your nose, Bounty paper towels, Kohler toilets, etc.) It’s set up like a theme ride experience – you take escalators up and weave though a roped off lines and everyone you meet is wearing Charmin gear and SO CHEERY. They have both Extra Strong & Extra Soft paper in the stall and ask you to vote for your favorite when you get out. Then you can jump on one of a number dioramas with the Charmin bear and take your picture. You can even get on stage and do the Charmin dance with friends or sit down and take a load off by a fireplace. Click here for a YouTube video of the full experience.

Earlier this week, the New York Times mentioned the Charmin project in a roundup article about Times Square as a magnet for experimental marketing. P&G has gotten 2 major waves of lift from the Charmin restrooms. In addition to all the individual experiences they create for anyone going in person, they had over 100 traditional media stories pickup the project and now are seeing a second wave of social media. Because this is so remarkable and designed with so many photo ops, when you type “Charmin” into Flickr, you get more than 1200 uploads. That YouTube video I linked to above has been seen more than 1300 times! Not bad at all for toilet paper.

Word of Mouth Marketing is (1) creating remarkable experiences and (2) making it easy for others to spread the word and this project hits it out of the park on both accounts. The experience is remarkable and designed to be fun, particpatory, photographed, taped and shared and it’s working. Case in point – I am blogging about a toilet paper brand!

  • Christy

    Whoah. This sounds like a totally surreal experience. Maybe it’s one of those things you have to simply experience when you get there. I mean, really! A sanitized Times Square?? Wow.

    Okay, yeah, I’m talking about the clean potty project, too. You asked a while back how to open conversations around typically taboo projects, and, well, here’s another answer: make an over-the-top experience of it.

    My grandmother would be appalled and embarrassed at such an experience surrounding something she used to perform in an outhouse. But, now, here we are, having our pictures taken right after said outhouse task.

    Reading about it makes it sound very weird to me. I guess I just have to be there to get the right angle on the experience.

    But, I wonder… do I finally have my outlet to tell them that I won’t buy their products because it’s just way too linty?? Maybe I’m aging, but I never would have thought that I’d have the opportunity to share that bit of feedback, at a now-clean Times Square. Hm.

  • Steve

    They should give you shirt that reads “I just did my business. Buy Charmin” to wear in all of the photo ops.

  • johnmoore (from Brand Autopsy)

    This is exhibit #256,450 in the case for brands to be remarkable. As we know, remarkable things get remarked about … and Charmin is getting remarked about.

    I’d like to also enter this as exhibit #721 in the case for there is no such thing as boring product categories, only boring products. If Charmin can make toilet paper interesting, just think what WE can do with the products we market.

    Great post VeeDub.

  • AnnieL

    Did anyone notice the nuptials that took place at the potty experience? A lovely young couple exchanged vows in the middle of the Charmin project. The bride wore a white toilet paper gown. I hope the groom had a lint roller.