Changing Bathroom Culture for TOTO
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
THE RIDE of YOUR LIFE The Japanese have a bathroom culture like no one else. Their sense of ritual and hygiene combined with their knack for innovative technology, leave travelers returning home from visits there with lots of stories to tell about their bathroom experiences—how's that for a souvenir? And the best stories are told about TOTO's luxury bathroom products—especially their toilets with automatic bidets. They usually begin like this:
"First, you sit down, and the seat is heated. Then after you've, um, "finished", you press a button on the remote control and a wand emerges from under the toilet seat and washes you with warm pulsating water [giggles and cackles} then, you pr
ess another button and warm air starts to blow and dries you off--look Ma, no hands!" At this point, the storyteller is beaming a 100-watt smile, and her audience is laughing, and saying, "No! Way!" Yes way. The TOTO Washlet and Neorest experience is better than your first trip to the amusement park as a kid . Truly.
COMING to AMERICA So following decades of being the leading bathroom brand in Asia, TOTO decided to bring their brand of bathroom magic to the United States, and was ready to rock 'n roll Americans. But there was a slight problem: Americans didn't know bidets from beignets. Our bathroom culture was firmly rooted in the toilet two-step: 1. Go 2. Use toilet paper . . . and the thought of shelling out up to $3000 for a luxury toilet experience that left you as clean as a whistle
was simply not on Americans' radar. It was as "weird" a concept as sushi was when it first hit our shores in the late 60's . . . "you eat raw fish?!"
So, that was the challenge: transforming people's perception of what "clean" means by introducing the idea water isn't only effective in washing our hands, or bathing or showering—that it
should be part of every activity you have in your bathroom. And that the most luxurious way to experience this was by creating an relaxing oasis in your bathroom, outfitted, of course, with the finest
water technology in the world from TOTO.
THE MAGIC of WATER
Years earlier, we had helped a German manufacturer of luxury bathroom faucets, Hansgrohe, introduce a few new product lines, and had done lots of research on psychology of water and humans' archetypal associations with it at a pre-conscious level, so we brought some of that insight to solving our strategic challenge. Here's the trick (at least one of them) with branding: if you don't get people to stop, look, and read or listen to your message, the greatness of your product doesn't matter—they'll breeze by your creative and never give you a chance to tell your story. So step one is branding creative that has stopping power, and our mermaids
campaign, shot my world-acclaimed underwater photographer, Zena Holloway,
beautifully accomplished that, and in
the process, began shifting American bathroom culture, toward acceptance of automatic bidets, a trend, that now, years later, has developed an ever growing presence in the bathrooms upscale homes.
THE REST of THE STORY Remind yourself to ask me tell you about scouting the world for the clearest water for underwater shooting in the early spring, finding models who not only flattered the brand, but could also do so while holding their breath underwater, getting the prop master who made Daryl Hannah's tail in Splash to make ours, flying in everyone from London, Atlanta, and Los Angeles to the Turks & Caicos, only to be greeted with days of storms and cloudy water . . . until the nail-biting last day, when the sun finally appeared . . . Lord, have mercy.
-Rick Julian Chief Creative Officer