In the list of products that most marketers would least like to have to promote, bathroom accessories are right up there along with fence posts and paving slabs. They’re generally pretty dull and can be embarrassing to talk about, and differentiating one bathroom product from another can be a real challenge in itself. For every #TweetsFromTheSeat campaign there’s a toothpaste advertisement waiting to bore our pants off, and there’s only so many times we can watch a toilet being cleaned before we lose interest. That’s the challenge the founder of Poo-Pourri, Suzi Batiz, had to overcome when she brought her products to market in 2007.
Poo-Pourri sells a range of odour-eliminating toilet sprays that work by creating a film on the surface of the water that traps dubious smells below the surface and prevents them from infiltrating our delicate nostrils. Over 17 million bottles of Poo-Pourri have been sold since 2007, and annual sales now top $30 million. For a company that prides itself on being “Number 2”, Poo-Pourri has done a pretty good job of cornering the market and its range of products have become permanent fixtures in bathrooms across the US.
Even if you’re not too familiar with the brand, you’ve almost certainly come across its viral YouTube video “Girls Don’t Poo”, which attracted more than 278,000 shares in its first week online and has since been viewed over 39,000,000 times. But whether it’s the quality of their product range or the strength of their marketing campaigns, Poo-Pourri has mastered the art of making a bathroom accessory interesting for over 10 years, and the business continues to go from strength to strength. So how has Poo-Pourri managed to make what is essentially a toilet air freshener so popular, and what can we learn from their ability to make customers give a crap?
When Batiz hauled a toilet into her first ever trade show to demonstrate to potential customers how effective the Poo-Pourri product was, she not only managed to stand out from the crowd, she captured the essence of the Poo-Pourri brand. Despite feeling completely out of place and almost walking out of the event as soon as she got there, Batiz put her doubts to one side and set out to prove how good the product was.
Her plan worked. While “everyone else’s products looked so professional”, Batiz’s unique approach to product demonstrations attracted attention and, as a result, Poo-Pourri became profitable in just its second month of business. The morale of the story: don’t be afraid to be different – even in the relatively constrained environment of an industry trade show. Showcasing the unique features of your product in a creative and novel way is a very effective way to get your product or service off the ground.
By the time the company launched its first YouTube campaign in September 2013, the Poo-Pourri brand had grown organically into a multi-million dollar business, due in no small part to Batiz’s understanding of who her customers were and where to find them. She focussed her marketing efforts almost exclusively on building a loyal following through word of mouth recommendations, and her calculated efforts to spread the word proved extremely successful.
She knew that it was mainly women who purchased her product, so for six years she gradually built up her business by advertising her product where her target audience would see it – at boutiques across the US. By early 2013, Poo-Pourri products such as Royal Flush and Deja Poo were being sold in over 8,000 stores across the US, and 90% of its revenue came from sales to retailers – the majority of which were boutiques.
Batiz had managed to build a loyal customer base because she understood her audience and didn’t waste time and money marketing to people who would be unlikely to purchase her product. After joining forces with Jeffry Harmon (the creative mastermind behind the entertaining and informative Orabrush videos) the pair set about creating the YouTube sensation “Girls Don’t Poo”, which went on to become the fifth most-watched video on YouTube in 2013. Batiz’s determination to get Harmon on board is a prime example of how hiring the right talent and staying true to your brand can make or break a digital marketing campaign.
The video was hugely successful not because it was particularly well made, but because it made an embarrassing subject humorous and easy to relate to. Poo-Pourri is aimed at people who are embarrassed by bathrooms and don’t want to talk about bathroom odours, so by making pooing funny and okay to laugh at, Batiz and Harmon made it okay to buy their product too.
Although Poo-Pourri was only invented to mask the smell of nasty bathroom odours, it has used social media marketing to cleverly expanded the conversation. There are only so many times you can talk about bathroom visits in isolation before the joke wears thin, and by considering anything that could lead to a toilet break as potential material for a marketing campaign, Poo-Pourri’s social media team have managed to widen the reach of their product.
During the 2015 Super Bowl, the Poo-Pourri team used its #Pooperbowl hashtag to tweet about popular foods consumed at the Super Bowl and how they would lead to inevitable toilet breaks. As with their YouTube videos, Poo-Pourri’s Twitter campaign was a huge success and only served to increase the brand awareness of the product among a whole new demographic. By managing to associate a bathroom accessory that covers up the smell of poo with a global sporting spectacle such as the Super Bowl, Poo-Pourri’s marketing team proved that, with a little creative thinking, anything is possible.
What marketing strategies the team behind Poo-Pourri will employ in the future is anybody’s guess, but if previous campaigns are anything to go by they’ll be anything but boring. By understanding their audience and staying true to their brand, Batiz and her marketing team have made a product related to pooing a must-have bathroom accessory for millions of people across the US, and in the process proved that with a little creativity you can sell just about any old s**t.
It’s time to move the game on.
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