Now that it's 2010 and every self-respecting business/brand/product has
an accompanying website, I enjoy looking up the most mundane companies
and products I can find too see how they use their web space. The truth
is that for certain categories of product (toothpaste, bleach, etc.)
there just isn't that much to say--but companies feel compelled to say something
because not being on the Internet is a Capital M, Capital O Missed Opportunity. Today, I am
giving you a guided tour of one of my favorite examples of this
phenomenon: toilet paper!!
Now, toilet paper advertising was hilarious long before the web got
involved. To be fair, it's a hard product to market; while the target
demographic is clear (butt-havers); the actual application of the
product is . . . unglamorous. As a result, toilet paper brands go
waaaay abstract, giving us cuddly imagery and trusting that we will make
the required logical leap ("It must
be good, because that baby
with wings lives in a cloud made out of it!") in exchange for not having
to see the more mundane realities of toilet paper spelled out for us
during a 30-second break from America's Got Talent
. But since
this type of marketing is already such a stretch, taking it to the web
makes it even more absurd. Don't believe me? Then clearly, you've
never Googled Charmin.
(click to enlarge! this goes for all pics in this post. wouldn't want you to miss out on the toilet-papery greatness.)
You can already tell this site is going to be good, based solely
upon the site description's plea to "Explore the Charmin
to find the toilet paper products that are right for your family." Don't mind
if I do!
The Charmin forest has everything a typical forest should have:
trees, bears, and conspicuously-placed packages of toilet paper. (Take
that, Leave No Trace!)
We recognize the Charmin bear from those TV commercials, in which we
learned that bears--who are often misrepresented by science as shitting
indiscriminately throughout the woods without cleaning up after
themselves--actually prefer to hang toilet paper rolls on cartoony tree
branches and pass down toilet paper preferences and advice to their bear
sons. ("Other advice" includes saying, "Oh, you didn't know how to kill all those people camping in their trailer? TRY USING MORE TEETH.")
In the interest of desperately trying to fill up space, Charmin
links us to some incredible uses of our free time. First, there is SitOrSquat.com,
"a place to find and record bathrooms all around the
world." What could be more noble? I encourage you to check out their
community page, which is described as " a place to
interact with anything that has to do with bathrooms."
If that, SOMEHOW, is not enough, you
can also visit Charmin's Enjoy the Go
site, which seems to be designed for
the purpose of encouraging women to enjoy going to the bathroom more.
Please watch the video on the page--you will understand. (By
understand, I mean NOT UNDERSTAND.)
Alas. We can't spend all day in the Charmin forest. Let's move
on. Next up: Angel Soft.
Angel Soft also goes the abstract
route by linking their product to angels. (This toilet paper is as soft
as dead people!) Here's
We get to see a nice picture of a mom and her son at bath time;
presumably they are more able to enjoy their nightly bath time ritual
now that they have been relieved of the complex and emotional task of
wondering what toilet paper is preferred by naked babies on clouds.
also get a Fun Bathroom Fact: "85% of moms say the most common bathroom
blunder is falling into the toilet when the seat is left up." This
information is undoubtedly 100% factual, because it is brought to us by
the company that has also done the complicated math required to assure
us that 12 double rolls are equal to nine mega rolls, which is the
equivalent of 24 regular rolls. We can also click on a link to a
"Toilet Paper Through the Ages" timeline, which informs us that, among
other things, "Colonial Americans used corncobs to cleanse with."
(Sorry, Founding Fathers, your secret is out--and you are gross.)
Soooo . . . Let's check in on Cottonelle. Is their motto "better than a
corncob?" Let's find out!
Answer: no. Cottonelle
market research told them that Charmin had taken all the talking bears
and Angel Soft had kidnapped all the angel babies, so they wisely went
puppy when mascot-pickin time came around. This was a solid move, in my
opinion, but their website is a bit confusing. Apparently, they took a
survey about whether Americans preferred to have their toilet paper roll
"over" or "under," and it appears that the 15% of American moms who
were not currently trapped in their own toilets due to bathroom
blundering had graciously taken the time to vote and decided on "over."
A video explains that Cottonelle's new and improved design is specially
engineered to suit over-rollers, and I genuinely cannot tell if they
are serious or kinda kidding. I don't need this confusion in my life!
Let's check in with the simplest brand of all.
Scott's packaging is simpler than the other
brands mentioned above; they don't mess with puppies, bears, angels, or
any of that nonsense. Their wesbite echoes this relative simplicity
and is similarly mascot-less. This might be because the website
advertises the entire Scott family of paper products as a whole--napkins, paper
towels, etc., making those mascots less applicable. (Although frankly,
if a baby angel is making a cloud-nest out of TP like some kind of
heavenly child-slash-gerbil hybrid, I would think he would want some
nice, stiff paper towels to add some structure to the whole thing.)
In lieu of mascot, Scott's got a community shtick going, and the
homepage shows some of the most recent discussion topics.
One example is "Shining the Shower," brought to us by someone named Barbara, whose parents knew she would group up to eventually comment on a toilet paper website.
I have mixed feelings about Scott. While this
approach seems a bit less ridiculous than, say, exploring the Charmin
forest on a Wednesday afternoon--it's also kind of boring. So, what's a toilet paper brand to do?
If you have any good ideas, let me know.