The tone of voice could be neatly summed up as “Talking Sh**.” Marketing toilet products and personal hygiene brands used to be all about suggestion, nuance, demure implication. There were a lot of cuddly animals and winsome scenes, anything to deflect from the foul nature of the product’s intended use.
But not any more, as brands are learning how to take the awkwardness out of a subject by addressing it head on. Consider the marketing revolution that’s emanating from bathrooms across the land. And the unifying theme is that the leading brands behind the movement are honest, frankly funny, and not afraid to get real. They’re using, you might say, a little (or a lot) of toilet humor to differentiate their brands and tone of voice, and to go viral on social media.
“Little Miss Puffy Tail can never forget,” states the ad for Quilted Northern toilet paper about an adorable porcelain bunny forced to watch, in blinkless horror, as human after human uses the toilet. The spot from April 2015 is part of a series that includes another ad about Sir Froggy, a toilet paper holder who can “never look away.”
The collection of a half a dozen videos included one about birds, “Conductor Randy,” “Daddy Gator” and “Grandpa Thaddeus,” a man who “had always hoped to know his great grand children… but not like this.”
If those Quilted Northern ads seem a little edgy for toilet paper, it should come as little surprise that they were directed by Bennett Miller, director of Capote, Moneyball and Foxcatcher, all Oscar-nominated films.
Or consider “Splatter,” an ad for American Standard toilets. “No one wants to look at splatter,” deadpans an elderly woman into the camera.
The spot pre-dates the Quilted Northern series by three months. But lifting the trend to new heights is the brand whose latest ad begins with the line, “My butt trumpet is about the blow.”
Yes, we’re talking about Poo-Pourri, a dainty fragrance made from essential oils made to mask the odor left by human defecation. This is not your father’s “just light a match,” but it’s certainly an answer to those “Do you think your ____ doesn’t stink?” comments.
As with Quilted Northern, Poo-Pourri has now sold millions of bottles of its scented toilet air freshener by embracing the reality of human bodily functions and playing on relatable human emotions to break the ice on a topic that’s traditionally not discussed in polite company.
In fact, Poo-Pourri is a master of the art form. Last year the brand pulled in millions of views by answering the long debated question, Does Santa Claus Poop? (Yes, Virginia, he does.)
Its first ever foray into online viral videos—”Girls’ Don’t Poop—crossed 34 million views in a year. (Another side note to Virginia—yes, dear, girls indeed poop.) Other videos from the brand include “Red, White and Poo” and “Second Hand Stink,” the latter of which asks women, “what if there was a more effective way to make certain you have to smell his man manure again?”
The ads are scripted by Joel Ackerman, the writer behind the viral YouTube ads for Orabrush and the first Poo-Pourri video. The star: Scottish actress Bethany Woodruff, who puts on a prim and proper British accent to discuss how to clear the air “down there.”
Poo-Pourri’s scatologically punning messaging does not end at the YouTube window tab. Poo-Pourri is the definition of the branding principle of staying “on brand” in all aspects of messaging and brand image. The takeaways for other marketers, clearly, include have a sense of humor—and know your audience.
Contact the brand’s customer service team and you will receive the following email from the “Poo-Crew”:
Thank you for your email and interest in Poo~Pourri! We are flushed with excitement! We just wanted to let you know that we have passed your lovely email onto the correct Poo~Individual! If they are interested or have any questions, they will be in contact with you! Have a pootiful day!
Yes, it’s a bit much and the puns are groan-worth to say the least, but it certainly catches the viewer’s attention. A big part of Poo-Pourri’s messaging success is its founder and CEO, Suzy Batiz, who runs the company with her husband.
Batiz is an indefatigable brand champion and unapologetic poop jokester and punster. To get an idea of how high energy Batiz is about Poo-Pourri, check out her 2014 Reddit AMA. It is a poorfect example of staying on brand. Batiz’s enthusiasm also helps make Poo-Pourri’s gross grossness honest and playful when it could easily come across as cynical and calculating.
Batiz cites Orabrush founder Jeffrey Harmon as an inspiration for how she’s using video (and his director) to distinguish her brand with humor and brazen cheekiness, and has been picking up awards (and sales) for breaking barriers on what can be discussed and promoted by brands.
Harmon is also the entrepreneur behind another loquacious toilet-based brand: Squatty Potty.
“Soft serve straight from a sphincter,” says the handsome knight in its new video (below) for the toilet stool that promotes squatting while pooping for health reasons. (Its tagline: “Pooping will never be the same.”)
The video is titled “This Unicorn Changed the Way I Poop” and passed 6 million views in its first month. (Don’t miss the accompanying “behind the scenes” video that includes how the unicorn was made to poop soft serve ice cream.)
The Squatty Potty is a product that aims to get consumers to defecate in a healthier squat instead of the scientifically-flawed modern sit toilet. “While sitting to do our business may be considered ‘civilized’, studies show the natural squat position improves our ability to eliminate,” says the brand.
Squatty Potty follows close behind Dude Wipes, a flushable cleansing wipe for men that features spokesmen Plip and Plop, and pitched its product last Christmas with a Santa’s Twerkshop video.
Beyond shamelessness, the one thing that this trend has in common—which guarantees its continuation—is the millions and millions of online views and built-in viral nature of the products and cheeky messaging. And anything that can get people to openly contemplate and discuss how to take care of less appealing bodily functions is a winner for brands and consumers alike.