How to Add Humanity to Your Marketing Materials
Remember Mister Whipple?
He was that old guy in the toilet paper commercial who kept telling people not to squeeze the Charmin. Mister Whipple was one of the most successful “continuing characters” in the history of advertising. Thanks to the “Please, don’t squeeze the Charmin” campaign, the brand became the category leader and made Proctor & Gamble a ton of money. (Factoid: In a 1978 poll, Mister Whipple was named the third best-known American behind former President Nixon and Reverend Billy Graham!)
Let’s take a look at what Mister Whipple did for the brand and learn a bit about what he can teach us.
Toilet paper, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is not the sexiest product on the market. Toilet paper is not up there with sports cars, PDAs or luxury watches. Like many other “package goods,” toilet paper falls, quite predictably, into the “low interest” category—which means Benton & Bowles Advertising had a tough problem trying to promote the brand.
They decided on a “Charmin is the soft one” positioning and created Mister Whipple to make the positioning come alive. The logic was because Charmin was so irresistibly soft, people just couldn’t help squeezing it. Mister Whipple, the old fuss-budget, had to keep their urge to squeeze the Charmin under control. He became the Taliban of aisle five.
Mister Whipple, therefore, is the metaphoric embodiment of the product positioning (“Charmin is the soft one”). Instead of simply asserting that Charmin is soft or proving it by tests or testimonials, Benton & Bowles used Mister Whipple to humanize the product positioning.
That’s what all continuing characters do. Take the lonely Maytag repairman. Maytag’s product positioning centers on reliability. Thus, the sad-sack Maytag repairman has nothing to do (since he’s never needed) and sits around bored and unloved. Again, the continuing character serves to imaginatively restate the product positioning and imbue it with humanity and personality.