by: David Polinchock
It's not often you hear people remark That's exciting while leaving a bathroom, but that seems to be the guest reaction so far to the new Charmin bathroom in Times Square. And, as you might have read at Experience Manifesto: Customer Experience Crossroads: It's all happening at the loo, bathrooms are no longer something in the back room that no one talks about!
Charmin has been running Link: Pottypalooza for many years and they finally decided to create a more permanent version of their touring attraction. The Charmin restrooms opened last week on 46th Street, right in the heart of Times Square. And right now, the only negative I’ve heard about the experience is that it’s going to end in early January!
I had a chance to sit down and talk to Tim Collins from the gigunda group and Kathryn Holl from Manning Selvage & Lee Public Relations about the project and was given a backstage tour as well. Tim told me that Pottypalooza is often called the Red Cross of bathrooms and it’s been a huge success where ever its been. The set-up here is quite impressive and you can see a little of the infrastructure in the picture below. Tim called it Disney-like in its set-up, with everything designed to be “refreshed” from backstage. They had almost 2,500 visitors in their first evening and it’s designed to accommodate 9,000/day.
I asked Kathryn about the ROI measurement of the experience and she said that it was based on a combination of things, including:
She also talked about the ability to give people the product and letting them have a firsthand experience with Charmin. One of the most exciting things they told me was that this project was the second largest expenditure outside of advertising that P&G has put against a brand. That’s a pretty big deal when you consider it’s P&G! They both talked about how important it was to attack it from all angles in order to create the right ROI. That the opportunity with something like this was the ability to deliver on an experiential level, drive PR (as evidenced by the links below) and get people to use the product. And certainly, if you’ve ever had the experience of trying to find a clean bathroom in Times Square — or in most of NYC — you know what a positive impression an experience like this can leave on people. Lastly, they both talked about the need to give something new to the consumers, especially in the media fragmented world that we’re living in today.
And I have to say, it was one heck of a bathroom experience. They were playing the Charmin song, which might have made me crazy if I had to listen to it all day, but it was fun in the short period of time I was there. All of the staff seemed to know the Charmin Cha Cha and they seemed to be really enjoying the gig. This is one of the strengths of the space and is something frequently overlooked when people create experiences. They’re having a great time and you can’t help but have fun with them too.
At the end of the day, they are creating a compelling, authentic and relevant brand experience. They’re giving people something new, a way to experience the Charmin brands in a very engaging way. Plus they’re delivering a very-much needed service to people visiting Times Square. It hits on every level. They face the challenge of making sure that it continues to maintain a very high level of service, but from what I know of the gigunda group, I’m pretty confident that they’ll achieve that. It’ll be interesting to see how P&G reviews this when it’s all over and whether or not they’ll keep it in Manhattan after January.