Mind Candy

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The bathroom: What marketers have learned and how they use it

Posted by mandyf on May 10, 2012

While it may seem odd there are actually people that study the habits of how people not only use the bathroom, but how they feel about the bathroom. Believe it or not big money is riding on knowing this information. Companies want to know how trends change regarding what people want to have in their bathroom. Even restaurants and major chain stores are in on the action as they want to do whatever they can to make sure that even if someone has to use the facilities it adds to a positive experience. All of this research does actually have merit as a person is unlikely to visit a restaurant with a dirty bathroom, or one that fails to meet what people perceive as their needs.

Before you say it’s all hogwash consider these points about public surveys conducted on bathrooms:

– They are cited as having led to the rise in family restrooms with changing stations.
– The change from the old linen towel dispensers which simply recycled the same cloth to users over and over until it was removed for laundering.
– The addition of more antibacterial soaps from pumps rather than bars soap used by everyone.

Beyond that marketing firms have zeroed in on what we do in the bathroom as they have somehow found through surveys that a person is receptive to advertising then. It is well known many people read in the bathroom, but marketers want to know what they read, for how long, and whether that time leads to purchases. If you think bathroom advertising is a joke you haven’t noticed the growing trend of ad posters in bathroom stalls slowly making its way to America. It is true this was tried before with a high tech twist, but in the current economy cheap printed poster ads are slowly popping up here and there. With all that said however, what else have research firms learned about our relationship with the bathroom?

According the National Association for Incontinence (NAFC, and yes they are for real) the average American spends one hour each day in the bathroom. That total includes bathing and primping in the mirror, not just using the toilet. Advertisers love this fact because that is two weeks per year spent in the bathroom, and not all of it is at home. Furthermore half of the people surveyed said they spent their time on the throne thinking about “serious issues.” A third said they daydreamed or made phone calls, and the majority of the remainder said they read during the downtime.

Two thirds of all Americans said they “toilet map” the public places they go to on a regular basis. Toilet mapping is when a person takes note of not only where bathrooms are in case they need one, but mental rating of them as well. Most of the people surveyed were able to not only plot a physical map of bathroom locations in places they regularly visit, but detail which ones were good and which were for absolute emergencies only. While it sounds silly to some, people also associate the facilities to the business which is often hosting them. Companies are pleased with this if it is a positive association, and enjoy that they may even make sales on people that drop in just to use the bathroom, but make an impulse purchase on the way out. To help spur this along many stores have begun placing sales circulars for their store in the bathroom itself or just outside of it because research says you want something to read. Why not make it something that may lead to a sale?

According to Quilted Northern’s 2001 “Bathroom Confidential Survey”, 30% of Americans avoid public restrooms due to fear of germs. Of those who do use public toilets, 60% claim they will not sit on the toilet, even with a paper sanitary cover, and instead hover over the bowl. When it comes to flushing, 40% say they do so by kicking the handle, and another 20% do it with their hand, but only if “protected”; by a tissue barrier. Believe it or not only a tiny percentage, around 10% flush using their bare hand, and the remaining 30% don’t flush at all. Research like this actually led to the rise of the electronic sensor flushing becoming more widespread. That in turn leads to higher “personal bathroom ratings” among those that “bathroom map”, which gain in turn could lead to higher sales.

When researchers dug deeper into peoples bathroom habits at home, the results were somewhat comical. An amazing 70% of people surveyed always close the bathroom door when going even if they live alone or there is no one else home. The most popular modern bathroom activities at home were found to be the following: Talking on the phone, balancing the checkbook, meditating, eating (Yes people actually admitted that), and the most popular activity across the board is reading. Reading the newspaper seems to be the most popular thing, and the sales circulars rank near the top with women, while sports and the business page leads among men. Why this is interesting is that they are also the most common sections people leave behind after using the bathroom and more often than not, people admit they will read those hand-me-down sections when they visit the bathroom.

The most common public bathroom accident according to a 1999 survey of England’s Department of Trade and Industry was cited as “trouser accidents.” That is a nice way of saying a piece of anatomy down there got stuck in the zipper. Ouch! In 1998 there were 5.137 visits to the emergency room for such accidents, with that number jumping to 5,945 in 1999. The reason cited by many as to how it happened was that they were in a hurry to get out of the bathroom because it was an uncomfortable/unsanitary place. In second place was accidents involving toilet roll holders with a mere 329. What those are you will have to figure out for yourself. What this research lead to was more companies upgrading their bathrooms to make them more user friendly which once again leads back to bathroom mapping ratings and sales.

What has all of this research meant to the average person? It means for one your tax dollars were often spent to tell you something you didn’t need to know. A second thing is advertisers have the average persons bathroom habits pegged and know what advertising you are most receptive to and where to place it in newspapers and the such. They also know what amenities you desire, what fears you have and what you spend your time doing while in the bathroom which has lead to industry changes regarding how bathrooms are constructed and maintained, as well as the growing trend to bathroom advertising. Businesses have heard the call loud and clear, if they can put together a clean user friendly bathroom for you to do your business the chances are they will also get your business.

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2 Responses to “The bathroom: What marketers have learned and how they use it”

  1. Reblogged this on Fractal ReBlogs and commented:
    Mind Candy does have a varied output >>>

  2. txwikinger said

    Reblogged this on txwikinger's blog.

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