Every once in a great while we encounter a campaign so execrable it defies belief. Charmin's "Enjoy the go" fits the bill and causes us to question whether the marketing geniuses at Procter & Gamble have lost their minds.
The campaign rhetorically asserts, "We all go. Why not enjoy the go?" Can this possibly be the Charmin brand assertion? Indeed it is. The brand embraces a path as grammatically desultory as the campaign is incomprehensible.
Here at BrandCulture Talk (with a hat tip to David Aaker) we spend a good deal of time discussing rational, emotional and self-expressive brand benefits. Brands that lay claim only to functional benefits are subject to being quickly eclipsed by competitive offerings. Only by laying claim to emotional and self-expressive value can brands create enduring competitive advantage. Except for a product like toilet tissue.
We suffer no illusions as to the job Charmin is designed to perform. By seeking to elevate excretion and dejection to a source of pleasure, however, the campaign is at best puzzlingly risible (albeit in poor taste) and more likely, seriously unhinged. Charmin endeavors to explain, "We all go to the bathroom every day . . . especially after morning coffee. Talk about getting things going! . . . Whew, that curry was hot [steam whistle sound effect]! bottom line, we all spend a lot of time going." We do?
How a company that is arguably the world's preeminent marketer of consumer packaged goods created, and continues to support this campaign is a mystery. P&G has extended the campaign into social media (recent Tweet to Charmin's nearly 8,000 Twitter followers: "Anyone have a favorite game they play while 'enjoying the go?' We enjoy a certain mad avian galactic battle one"), a Facebook presence with over 325,000 "likes" (!) (recent post: "Did anyone have Charmin on their Black Friday shopping list????") and a dedicated blog that descends from the simply gross to a creepily voyeuristic "Daily peek inside the cleanest public restroom in Times Square" (although they may have rethought that one as the last "daily peek" took place in 2009). This campaign is so bad for so many reasons that the writers of Saturday Night Live would be hard-pressed to invent this madness as a parody.
And just to make this whole campaign a wee bit classier, let's add . . . Kim Kardashian a couple of "Enjoy the go" bear mascots, a Brooklyn drum corps and a ceremonial glass key to the toilet! See for yourself:
So . . . instead of furthering the devolution of the English language while mawkishly celebrating the unspeakable, wouldn't P&G be better served by dusting off an updated version of the venerable Mr. Whipple, who successfully hawked Charmin for over 20 years? Mr. Whipple cleverly extolled the functional (and actually valuable) benefit of softness through the inability for virtually anyone to resist the siren song of "squeezing the Charmin"? Like the iconic "Maytag Lonely Repairman," Mr. Whipple distinguished Charmin from competitive offerings with aplomb in more than 500 commercials, and was at one point the 3rd most recognizable American -- only behind Richard Nixon and Billy Graham. Not once did he feel compelled to mention enjoying the "go."
The late Dick Wilson, the actor who portrayed Mr. Whipple, hit upon the crux of Charmin's dilemma in a 1985 interview with the Chicago Tribune: 'What are you going to say about toilet paper? I think we handle it the best way we can." If only P&G took his advice.