Apart from touchy feely TV ads with cute puppies, there’s really not much about toilet paper to get excited about. Or so I thought. But that was before I came across Who Gives a Crap.
Passion child of social entrepreneurs “Simon, Jehan and Danny”, Who Gives A Crap toilet paper was on its way to populating bathrooms after they discovered that 2.5 billion people across the world don’t have access to a toilet.
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To paraphrase them, they “thought that was pretty crap”, so the idea for the business was born and it was start-up funded via a campaign on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. So the story goes, founder Simon spent 50 hours on a toilet in a draughty warehouse until they reached their funding target. And as everyone knows, a great story is an invaluable asset when you are starting out.
Twelve months later, their first production run has been a sell-out success and new stocks have started shipping to patient customers (myself included) who placed a pre-order. Think about that for a minute – a pre-order for toilet paper! When you get people doing that you know you’re doing something right.
Fifty per cent of profits from Who Gives A Crap go to providing better sanitation to the developing world via a partnership with NGO Water Aid. And while that certainly doesn’t hurt in encouraging people to place an order, I’m happy to report that while the problem that inspired the business might be crap, the product isn’t.
My shipping box (plain brown with one colour logo on side) of toilet paper rolls arrived just this past week. Opening it, I was greeted with a selection of playfully patterned yet tasteful, wrapped toilet rolls. No need to hide these guys in the bathroom cupboard – they are a conversation waiting to happen. And the “bottom” line – three-ply, no chlorine, inks, dyes or scents and 100% recycled. Or as they so concisely summarise on the packaging, “Good for your bum. Great for the world.”
Like pioneering social business Toms Shoes, Who Gives a Crap shows that while “doing good” is not a prerequisite, it can certainly be good business and begs the question why aren’t more everyday products thought of as part of the solution?
To show that you give a crap, you can visit their site and while you’re there why don’t you place your pre-order.
Here are three takeaways for other SMEs:
1. Good brands can exist without a good story, but it sure makes it easier when you have one.
2. Think outside traditional corporate models and explore the emerging opportunities of social business and crowd-funding – what problem can you be part of the solution to?
3. Even cool ideas need good customer communications. I was never left to wonder what was going on with my pre-order, Who Gives A Crap kept me informed every step of the way.
[As a note – anyone I mention in these blog posts is here solely because I like what they are doing and think others can pick up a tip or two from them.]
If you like a brand and think I would like it too, post it in comments or give me a shout out on Twitter with the name and I promise I’ll look at them – can’t promise I’ll talk about them though.
See you next week.
Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com.