Be Inspired, Buy a Bog Roll

Posted: June 25, 2010 in Business, Humour, The Aliens have Spoken
Tags: , , , , ,

Dear Robyn,

Unless you are like me and have the memory of a goldfish (ooh! never been here before, ooh! never been here before…) you’ll remember a short tad ago I wrote a post on The #1 Purpose of a Website in which I bleated on about Narnia and mothballs and inspiration. Afterwards Blair Stevenson (who has his own cool blog on leadership) pasted up this comment:

“While inspiration is good, as is creating something people truly believe in, I’m not sure that they are necessary to make a sale. I’m not sure that manufacturers of toilet tissue or socks, or providers of legal services or petrol ever truly inspired anyone but they seem to make a reasonable living. It seems better to actually fulfill/address a need your target audience actually has.”

This reminded me of something funny that happened to me recently. I needed to go to the supermarket to buy *bog rolls and a toothbrush. Uninspiring items. Now, this is a bit of a mission for me because I am one of those people who is a disappointment to Market Researchers:

“Are you the main household shopper?”

Nope! Not a chance. I hate supermarket shopping with a vengence. It bores me rigid. The faster I can go into a Foodtown and come out the other side with only the things I planned to buy (ahem!) the better. Preferably at midnight also when there are no mass queues of people or trolley jams to negotiate. There’s something strangely megalomaniacal about having a whole supermarket to yourself too, as if they especially cleared out the whole place just for you.

Anyway, I don’t really like supermarkets and don’t spend much time in them so I also unsurprisingly have no idea what is in them either. The other day I decided I wanted to get a new toothbrush. So I went to what I thought was the appropriate isle and wandered up and down looking for them.

Razors… soap… shampoo… face wash… Christmas decorations (wtf? it’s a bit early for Xmas isn’t it?)… cotton wool…

That’s weird. No toothbrushes. Bit strange in the bathroom isle. So I looked again.

Razors… soap… shampoo… face wash… Christmas decorations… cotton wool…

Definitely not there. Hmmm. So I asked someone to point them out. OK so those aren’t decorations! Clearly I had been looking for the wrong thing. A toothbrush by my definition is a plastic stick with some bristles bunged unceremoniously in one end. It does a pretty good job of keeping your teeth clean despite it’s uninspired mundanity and once it’s retired from duty it does a not bad job of cleaning soap scum off the basin taps.

Well, how uneducated I am! That’s not what a toothbrush is anymore. No. A toothbrush, apparently is a vehicle into the 11th dimension, and it has the flashing spaceship lights to prove it.  No wonder I thought Christmas had come early. Toothbrushes are sparkling things designed by aliens. You get an infinite array to pick from –  ones with 390 degree revolving heads that have handles that bend like a slinky,  battery powered vibrating ones with bristles pointing everywhere at mathematically impossible angles, every possible combination of psychodelic fluorescent colours combined in swirly patterns and embedded with more glitter and bling than Lady Gaga has costume changes. Some come with alarm clocks. Others with backing lights. You can even get toothbrushes for toddlers that come with training wheels or scary talking monster heads. And they don’t appear to be made from plastic anymore but some sort of space age coagulated extraterrestrial ectoplasm. The best thing of all – they come with a write up on the packaging that promises that if you buy one it will solve all your life problems for you. Don’t believe me? Well go stand in front of the toothbrush stand and see for yourself – just don’t forget your sunglasses.

And that is not all. After being blinded by the toothbrushes I had to go get some bog rolls. Now surely these would truly be boring and uninspired. Wrong again. All I wanted was a classic roll of toilet tissue. How hard can that be? But they don’t seem to exist anymore.

First off you have to identify the packaging. You know, on nappy packets they put a picture of a cutesy baby. On bogs rolls they put pictures of cutesy puppies. Eh? You could be well forgiven for thinking they are a product designed especially for dealing with puppy poop! Once you figure out it is actually toilet paper and not a pet product you have the same mind bending variety to decide on. What do you want to do today?  Visit a perfumery in France? Take a trip to the beach with the blue starfishies and dolphins? Teach your kid to count out bits of bog roll with doggy footprints? Play Sudoku? Read your starsign? Admire the new softness of the latest breathable, micro-weave, quilted paper? Your bog roll will deliver. What will come out next? Bog rolls for the old and senile with instructions for use on every single sheet or the days of the week? (“Today is Monday, perforation, Today is Tuesday, perforation, Today is Wed… oh for Pete’s sake just pick one, they’re all the same these days anyway!”)

So getting back to Blair’s original comment, it is true that many manufacturers never inspire anyone and still make a profit. But it’s kind of cool when they do otherwise life would be pretty bland and it’s far to short not to have fun. Inspiration isn’t necessary to make a sale – but someone sure as hell forgot to tell the toothbrush and bog roll people that!

Morgan 🙂

PS: Oh, and am I inspired by my new toothbrush? Well, yes I am actually. It’s pretty superduper and  I like it so much I’m considering buying a whole box of them now before they go out of fashion in a week’s time to make room for the next model – a multi-dimensional space wonder with warp speed hyperdrive, 16GB hard drive and beam me up Scotty functionality.

*bog rolls = rolls of toilet paper

Image by Andrej Troha

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Comments
  1. Lia says:

    Hi Morgan,

    Maybe it’s not as much to inspire as it is to entertain, and judging by the responses I have seen from your blog so far, it sure looks like that is the intention of the advertiser to me. That said, I believe it depends on the mental capacity of the consumer you are advertising to.

    Example 1: Honey Puffs

    I clearly remember, to my horror, being about 6 years old and scared out of my wits when presented, by my mother, with a packet of honey puffs.
    Why? You ask. It’s simple. Do you not recall the honey puffs ads? They clearly showed, once the packet was opened, dozens of bees flying out of the packet. Having never been one to like “creepy crawlies” this advertising did nothing to inspire me, except, perhaps, to buy another brand of breakfast cereal. If that was their desired response, then, congratulations, mission accomplished.

    Inspiration: Run and hide

    But, if that hasn’t changed your stance on the matter, then yes, I agree, sometimes inspiration is clearly the advertisers intention, or is it?

    Example 2: Libra Invisible Pads

    If the thought of purchasing sanitary pads is, well, insanitary, here’s a product that will leave you truly inspired, and also entertained.
    What could be better than unleashing the superhero in your man? Simply by careful application of said sanitary pads onto arms, torso, legs or even forehead of your man will transform him into a powerful superbeing capable of taking on the world. And there you were all that time thinking the product was to be used for another purpose. The answer is NO. It’s clear purpose, (don’t be fooled by imitations) is for the use of the male of the species as a mere ego inflater. It is to be noted, however, that again, the product is misleading, as it will not make your man invisible upon application of the pads.
    It may, however, have the same affect after you leave said man, refusing to be associated with him after being caught out when he took you out on a blind date to a fancy dress party dressed as his favourite superhero. Libra Invisible? You bet!

    Inspiration: Run faster, hide longer

  2. Man you crack me up Lia!

    I have thought about some kids’ ads scaring the pants off them myself. There is one running on the tele at the moment like that. I can’t say being scared of a product off the tele ever happened to me when I was a kid. But then I am phobic of teles full stop so I am paranoid about everything that comes out of them ha ha!!!!

    Morgan 🙂

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