Brand: Charmin (Procter & Gamble)
Execution: Experiential Marketing
Target: New York Visitors
Starting yesterday, Procter & Gamble’s Charmin Toilet Tissue is sponsoring free bathrooms in Times Square. The billboard promoting the sponsored restroom says, “You’re in New York. Go in style.” over the brand logo and an arrow pointing to the restroom entrance. There are 20 restrooms including two with disabled access. Each of the restrooms will be hand-cleaned by an attendant after each use. The restrooms will operate until the end of the year and the end of the holiday period.
At first glance, the high costs of New York real estate and Times Square billboard advertising might make this experiential marketing tactic (experiential because the restrooms are stocked with Charmin toilet tissue) a risky bet. However the marquis value of Times Square combined with the publicity value of solving a genuine issue for the neighborhood and its millions of tourists (lack of access to clean, free toilets) and the goodwill of consumers makes this a slam dunk from our perspective.
More importantly, it points to an intriguing way for brands to build deeper relationships and more loyalty from their consumers. Find a social problem that fits within your area of expertise. Divert advertising money to solve this problem. Repeat.
At the moment, with temporary and very limited program, Procter & Gamble is just staging the equivalent of a pricey sampling event with good PR for Charmin. But if Procter has a good experience over the next month, the opportunities for the Charmin brand are significant. $100 million spent in advertising against the Charmin brand will boost sales, but only in the short-term. Advertising spending in mature categories with little product news tends to be a zero sum game – someone’s gain is at someone else’s loss and because brand loyalty is relatively low, there is a tremendous danger of promotional activity sparking a price war which hurts everyone’s bottom line.
Charmin as the sponsor of clean, free public toilets in places where they are hard to find nationwide would have a different profile. The brand could find intense loyalty from grateful consumers who have been spared the indignity of pleading with a surly bartender or restaurant owner and parents who might otherwise be cleaning up a bigger mess. It would also be very difficult for other toilet tissue brands to copy Charmin’s move.
As any big-city mayor knows, great execution of public services is everything. If the Charmin bathrooms are really kept spotless and if Procter & Gamble have correctly anticipated demand and manage to avoid excessively long lines, Charmin will benefit greatly from this promotion. Bad execution will hurt the brand and damage its hard-won credibility.
A bigger problem may be the planned closing of the project just after the holiday season. The need that the Charmin restrooms are filling in Manhattan will not disappear as 2006 passes into 2007. Charmin risks consumer alienation by closing these restrooms if they are successful. This advertising blog strongly suggests Charmin rethink this policy and keep the restrooms open long enough at least to judge whether they can have a continued impact on the brand. If the answer is “yes,” Charmin should divert some money from television advertising and expand to other markets and needs.
Branding Bottom Line:
Charmin makes Time Square more friendly. Consumers are grateful.