If you can read this blog and not grin (or maybe even laugh) you're more grisly than me.
MediaPost.com posted "P&G Backs Public Toilet Database Site, App." Proctor & Gamble, supporting Charmin branding, has agreed to financially support the web site www.SitorSquat.com, which was originally developed by a New York homemaker. According to the Charmin brand manager this is considered part of the overall marketing effort which includes providing toilets at public events. His goal is that by helping people find clean places to go, it will help them remember to buy Charmin when they are at the grocery.
You have to admit, it's a clever and far from traditional idea. And certainly most of us have been in situations whether for ourselves or for someone with us (including children) we'd like to know the location of a toilet – especially a clean one. That the database can be downloaded, or accessed via the web or iPhone or Blackberry makes it a usable tool. Perhaps as valuable as an on-line restaurant guide. In times of "crisis" it could be the most valuable app on your iPhone.
But, despite the cleverness, P&G is operating in D&E mode rather than really growing toilet paper sales. The app does not discern whether the facility's paper is nice, soft Charmin, or more industrial single ply product. Nor does it even promote Charmin in rating the toilets. The stars seem to be more closely tied to mop and rag use by janitors, and accessibility, than anything else. It's unclear that this will increase demand for Charmin, much less toilet paper, and probably does little more than reinforce the brand name, by merely putting it on the site.
If P&G really wanted to grow the market for toilet paper, it would be more aggressive. For us world travelers, there are many places where toilet paper isn't as common as the USA – such as India. We all know of various health risks in India (mostly due to water issues), and P&G would be well served to promote hygiene in the developing world, including the use of disposable personal cleaning products like toilet paper. Further, P&G could develop products that use less wood pulp thus having less environmental impact, in effect a "green" toilet paper, that would incent additional use by the ecology-oriented. Or P&G could develop product from recycled or other waste material that has an even lower carbon footprint than paper (corn stalks? corn husks? banana leaves? straw?), again promoting use in the developing world (that often lacks enough wood) as well as environmental advocates.
While the database is interesting, and no doubt will get used, its business value will most likely be nill. A funny news column, but of no value to P&G shareholders. It doesn't help P&G address future needs of people regarding toilet paper (ecology, etc.), nor does it address the use of competitive products (which is non-use, or natural fibers [leaves] in the developing world). P&G has taken a clever new generation product like an iPhone app, and turned it into a very traditional, industrial use which is basic brand awareness reinforcement. Really not White Space, because no goals are given the project nor any positive results expected from it.
But, you have to admit, it's definitely "outside the box" thinking – especially for a company as stodgy as P&G. There is no doubt, this is an innovative (if sustaining) innovation in brand marketing – including the building of a web/iPhone app to promote a product. You'd just like to see P&G go a bit further in its efforts to find growth for shareholders. Have a happy weekend!