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  • Paul Davidson

Words For <i>Your</i> Enjoyment: Toilet Paper Packaging

I was here last Friday, here the week before that and here the week before that. And each and every one has contained what the people-behind-the-scenes here at WFME call “Words For Your Enjoyment!”

This weeks column idea comes from Reluctant Writer who said: “For a long time, we’ve had a policy at our house never to buy toilet paper with pictures of babies or puppies on the package. This policy has become impossible to enforce and still have TP at home. All the packages these days have either babies or puppies! Babies kind of fit on TP packages, I suppose, but puppies!?! Why puppies? What do they have to do with TP? Why not photos of green, green grass or flowers or plumbing?”

Well my friend – I will tell you exactly why it is that toilet paper companies include the images that they do on their packaging.

Whether or not you know it, while I was getting clearance to print all the letters in my book Consumer Joe I had to deal with certain toilet paper companies like Charmin and had the opportunity to ask them why they use the images that they do on their products. Many of the toilet-paper companies use images of babies, teddy bears, puppies and daisies (as opposed to paper towel companies who use lumberjacks and scrubbing bubbles with real eyes and retinas).

And so I posed the question, “Why do you use babies and teddy bears and puppies and daisies on your packaging?”

And they answered, “Sir, do you have a real question to ask us, or shall we just hang up now?”

And so I pressed on with my own hypothesis.

Here’s the real breakdown:

Babies: Babies are soft. Babies often crap their pants and require you to pick up something to clean up their mess. Babies are squishy and people love to touch them. Babies are the kind of little human being you love to have around the house. Babies, in general, make you feel like you’re alive. Much in the same way you feel alive while wiping your butt with toilet paper. Really, seriously this makes total sense. While you’re in the bathroom, using Charmin, the company who makes it would like you to say to yourself, “Wow, this Charmin is soft, squishy and I love to touch it.” And if you’ve done that, they’ve done their job.

Teddy Bears: Teddy Bears are cuddly and loveable. They harken back to our beloved childhood. They come in all colors, sizes and squishiness levels. Once again, all great qualities that a toilet paper could have. Although I’ve never heard someone say, “Darling, when you go to the store would you pick up some of that cuddly, loveable Charmin?”, I still think that’s what we’re all unconsciously thinking.

Puppies: Puppies are spontaneously cute. And seriously, what more do humans want in a toilet paper than a brand that is spontaneously cute. Charmin is spontaneously cute. Puppies also are clumsy and sometimes slide into cabinets in the kitchen, and a particular toilet paper company once even used such an image on a commercial to sell their wares.

Daisies: I lied about this being on any packaging so I could have four things to mention above. Sorry about that.

Now, when it comes to the things our Reluctant Writer has suggested that SHOULD be on the packaging like green grass, flowers or plumbing… I have a very adamant thought on that angle.

1. Green grass makes me think of wheat shots which are gross and cause people to have to go to the bathroom. Not good.

2. Flowers make me think of the time my sister came on a strawberry-picking outing but since she was so young she didn’t know the differences between strawberries and flowers and ended up eating a handful of flowers instead of fruit that day and had the worst-upset stomach ever… And that’s not good either.

3. Plumbing makes me thing of toilet clogs which makes me think that if any toilet paper used plumbing as the image on their packaging all the consumers would just think to themselves that uh oh maybe this toilet paper is too thick for my plumbing, maybe I should buy the generic supermarket brand for 3 dollars less and there you go, a company is out a hundred million dollars.

Some ideas for other packaging images that I think would benefit the sales of toilet paper include (but are not limited to): Shirley Temple, Macaulay Culkin, fish and chips (comfort food), the equation E=MC squared (we all think in the bathroom, don’t we?), pomogranites (helps digestion), the smiling face of Yahoo Serious, rice pudding, goldfish and a pile of Legos.

I think this is a great work-in-progress list that can be added to, for sure. WFME welcomes your additions, deletions and suppositories. Uh, I mean, suppositions.

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