30 days of WWGD? – Googley toilet paper?

For today’s snippet from What Would Google Do?, we bring you the question of whether toilet paper – like other consumer products (Coke or clothes) – could be Googley. Note that this mentions the magical Davos toilet. Here’s the video I made last year of that toilet:

On my latest trip, I noticed this cautionary note about the limits of the technology posted above the magic machine:

Davos toilet sign

In the excerpt below, I also speculate about publishing on toilet paper. In the same restroom, I found the next best thing: ad-supported paper towels:

davos towels

Now the snippet:

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OK, consumable goods, gadgets, and fashion could be Googlified. But what about Google TP? Surely it is not possible to bring Googlethink to toilet paper. There won’t be communities around toilet paper. I shudder to imagine TP 2.0 after seeing a commercial for toilet paper whose USP (unique selling proposition) is that it doesn’t leave little paper bits on your butt. Boy, that must have been a tough sales conference. I can’t think of a better reason for advertising not to exist.

As with newspapers, perhaps it’s time for the TP industry to get out of the paper business and ask what business it is really in. Cleanliness, right? When I was in Davos, what amazed me almost as much as hanging out with heads of state and industry was seeing an automated, self-cleaning toilet seat in the conference center. After flushing, a motorized arm comes out and grabs the seat, cleaning it as it rotates. It’s mesmerizing. I took video of it to share on YouTube. (Google “Davos toilet” for my video. Or for a more entertaining if politically incorrect demonstration, search on YouTube for “Swedish toilet seat Gizmodo”). The company that makes that product is not in the paper business. It’s in the clean-seat business.

Toto, a Japanese plumbing manufacturer, has decided that the business is neither paper nor clean seats but clean bums and happiness. Toto invented the Washlet automated, computerized toilet seat, a marvel of technology that heats the seat to a cozy 110 degrees and spritzes you with warm, clean water after you’ve done your business. Then it dries you with gentle, warm air even as it magically eliminates odors. (On YouTube, search for “Toto Washlet FlushTV” to see a demonstration by W. Hodding Carter IV, son of the former Carter administration official and author of Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization.) Before you laugh, know that Toto has sold 17 million Washlets (they advertised on my Buzzmachine with smiley faces superimposed on naked, happy, clean butts). The Toto is hot on YouTube with videos that have tens, even hundreds of thousands of views. Hollywood actor Will Smith has bragged on TV that he has the deluxe, $5,000 model and doesn’t spend a dollar on TP. Here we have the perfect convergence of problem and solution, hardware and software, technology and life with bottom-up marketing. This is the post-TP Googley toilet.

Even in atom-based enterprises, the connections the internet makes possible can bring business benefits. No end of consumer products would be helped from a more open conversation: tool makers listening to craftsmen, cooking-utensil companies opening up to cooks, athletic equipment companies watching out for what athletes and trainers want. One should find opportunities to make more targeted products and to partner with customers to design, support, and sell products. Google and the internet change everything, even factories.