'Toilet Tour' Marketing Boosts Charmin Sales 14%

P&G Expands Its Traveling 'Pottypalooza' Event Efforts

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- It may be the ultimate side-by-side comparison, brought to you by Procter & Gamble Co.

The Pottypalooza tour rolls into town.
Lines quickly form at demo toilets.
Inside are all the comforts of home.
On one side, a row of typically wretched public toilets at last year's Oktoberfest in Cincinnati. On the other, squeaky-clean, tractor-trailer-mounted bathrooms complete with running water; wallpaper; faux wood floors; and plenty of Charmin toilet paper, Safeguard hand soap, Pampers changing tables and Bounty paper towels.

Long lines
The feedback was instant. The 30 Charmin-sponsored bathrooms had people lining up for 15 to 20 minutes even when regular Port-O-Lets nearby went vacant.

The experience was typical, P&G says, of other stops on the Charmin Pottypalooza tour, which within the past year reached 2 million consumers at more than 20 events nationwide, including the Super Bowl in San Diego.

Including a separate program in which P&G makes over restrooms at state fairs, Charmin's in-bathroom marketing reached 30 million consumers last year, said Lafton Charriez, marketing director.

P&G research, moreover, shows a 14% increase in Charmin sales among those consumers who have used the P&G facilities, leading the company to roll out a second Pottypalooza unit for 2003 in hopes of reaching twice as many events.

"This is definitely paying out," Mr. Charriez said.

Ultimate captive audience
Pottypalooza has given Charmin the ultimate captive audience and integrated marketing opportunity. People lined up outside the bathrooms are entertained by a Charmin bear walkabout. Once inside, they see a non-stop loop of TV ads featuring the iconic bear. Seldom have consumers been more surrounded by a brand message.

Although P&G, unlike Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Georgia-Pacific Co., doesn't have an away-from-home paper business, Pottypalooza is part of a growing effort by Charmin to take its marketing to public bathrooms. It grew out of an earlier program in which the brand remade public restrooms at state fairs into "Charmin Zones," with P&G taking over the cleaning and toilet-paper restocking chores. Charmin also has done in-restroom sampling and advertising at Darden Restaurants' Olive Garden.

"It's a category that consumers don't think much about," said Charmin Brand Manager Diane Cercle. "To break through that and understand the benefits of Charmin Ultra, you really need to try it."

Reaching young families
But other sampling programs Charmin tried, such as giving away rolls to discharged hospital patients, didn't hit the mark. Samples seldom got used at home or consumers didn't make the connection when it was time to buy the product at the shelf, Ms. Cercle said. Pottypalooza, directed at young households at family-friendly events, has driven the message home like no other sampling effort.

"We have a lot of loyal users from the days of Mr. Whipple," Ms. Cercle said. "I'm not sure we've had a campaign to date that works so hard for us [at] bringing young families into the Charmin franchise. [Pottypalooza] is working very well for us."

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