Episode 34


What does it mean to be a brand?

One of the most critical barriers to success is understanding what a brand is and what a brand is NOT. I get this question all the time. Let me tell you what a brand is NOT: A brand is NOT a name, logo, tag-line, package design or the product itself. I call these elements: Window-dressing your brand. A brand is simply an EMOTIONAL IDENTITY that differentiates products, services and people.

As a former marketing executive at global multi-billion dollar consumer products companies like Nabisco, Kraft Foods, Cadbury and Godiva, I successfully crafted emotional identities for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Over the course of 25 years, a frequent challenge I faced was communicating the role a brand played in consumer’s lives…in other words its Core Value. To solve this problem, I developed a process to label that brand’s Core Value using just ‘One Word’. This helps consumers understand what they are actually buying.

During this series, I will select a brand I worked on or studied and share it’s ‘One Word’ Core Value, as well as share valuable topics in the branding arena that will help you Stand-Out Conquer Obstacles and Reach Excellence…in other words, SCORE.

So let’s turn to today’s brand clip…Charmin

Show Notes (click to expand)


SO…That’s why I theming this episode, “The Great Toilet Paper Scare”!

NOW you may be asking yourself, “What does toilet paper have to do with a global pandemic?”

Well the answer is: NOTHING.

However, when coronavirus hit the U.S. in March, the feeling that the world was going to end led throngs of people to stockpile toilet paper, prompting widespread shortages.

Toilet paper became a coveted item when store shelves were emptied, Amazon reported MAJOR out of stocks, and social media was EXPLODING with memes, jokes and pleas for a roll or two.

Eight months after the pandemic started, this surge of stockpiling is happening again. However, brands have had a chance to prepare, with new measures in place to respond to this surge in demand.

One such brand is Charmin, a 92-year old company bought by Procter & Gamble in 1957! 

HERE’S A FUN FACT. We’ll maybe not so fun, but I’ll share it anyway. Charmin Ultra is the most popular name-brand toilet paper, with over 76 million Americans choosing this brand for their bathroom needs – WOW! 

Now, I’m might be aging myself when I say that this brand created one of my favorite TV campaigns of all time called, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!”. Well before the creation of their current animated bear mascots campaign, the Charmin brand had another spokesperson in Mr. Whipple. Making his debut in 1964, Mr. George Whipple would spend more than 20 years promoting the “Squeezable SOFTNESS” of Charmin and become a beloved character inside millions of homes.

Played by veteran character actor Dick Wilson, Mr. Whipple was as an uptight grocer who was determined to do everything he could to keep shoppers from squeezing Charmin packages in his grocery store. In multiple commercials, ladies praised the cushiony, soft texture of this toilet paper. Even though there was a sign in place telling them not to squeeze it, how could they resist Charmin’s squeezable SOFTNESS?

The punchline was that even Mr. Whipple himself could not resist Charmin’s SOFTNESS, and often gave in to the temptation to squeeze the package when no one was looking.

After 21 years and over 500 commercial appearances, Dick Wilson retired from being the Charmin spokesperson. However, in 1999, he would come out of retirement to share the news of the thicker, stronger than ever Charmin with audiences everywhere saying that “It’s more than just squeezably soft!”

Bringing it back to the global pandemic and the phenomenon of “panic buying” toilet paper, one can only imagine what Mr. Whipple would do if he was still alive as the spokesperson for the Charmin brand. He most definitely would still be the grumpy grocer, but this time he would be saying something to shoppers like, 

“Please don’t hoard the Charmin”. 

Then being the hypocritical grocer that he was, you would catch him stockpiling Charmin toilet paper into his car to take home.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this:

Your product is NOT your brand.
Your brand is your Core Value…AND
You use your product as the vehicle to drive your Core Value.
Charmin uses their toilet paper to drive their Core Value of SOFTNESS.
So, if you haven’t already traded your toilet paper for a bidet, remember this: SOFTNESS is how Charmin SCORES.

I’m Rich Keller, The CATALYST and see you next time on The CATALYST Effect!

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