Charmin Restrooms

Today, I took my youngest into New York City to see the Christmas sights. We hit Bryant Park, Grand Central Terminal, the tree at Rockefeller Center, and the Times Square Toys R Us. While in Times Square, my daughter, of course, had to go to the bathroom. Well what to my wondering eyes should appear but a big toilet installation from Charmin, called the "Charmin Restrooms." This is the third year of this promotion, and they outdid themselves this year. The space was amazing -- clean, happy, eventful, inviting -- all things you'd not associate with a public restroom. They even had an emcee hosting the space and notifying people when their restrooms were ready. Here's a video of a bit of the festivities: [youtube=]

I was truly impressed by this, especially having been to quite a few other New York City public restrooms (yech). It's hits all the sweet spots for effective brand marketing:

  • It's relevant.
  • It's where the audience already resides.
  • It's helpful.
This is also a perfect example of what Shelly Palmer refers to as WIWWIWWIW (what I want, when I want, where I want), which is especially funny when you know he pronounces it (wee-wee-wee). Finally, considering how badly my daughter had to "go," it should have been "what I need, when I need, where I need" or WIN-WIN-WIN (all pun intended). Line of the day ... "We've got the number one urination station in the nation."

Water, water everywhere?

You ever notice that leaky faucet you pass by in public restrooms or restaurants? Most of us probably just pass by it without another thought. When I was in a Cosi in Manhattan yesterday, I was about to do the same, when I noticed it wasn't a dripping faucet, but an outright running faucet. Try as I may, it would not shut off. running water You might think that this just isn't a big deal. I often thought the same, until I came across this site. It shows you how much water is wasted by leaky faucets. It's staggering. For instance, if as few as a million homes have one leaky faucet that drips one drop per second, the amount of water wasted in one year is over 2 billion gallons (yes, billion with a "b"). One of the tenets that environmentalists hold true is that everyone needs to do a small part to make a difference -- not a few people doing a lot. If we can get a million people to simply replace a 25-cent washer, think about all of the water that can be saved. Now apply that thinking to your entire life, and you will make a difference.

Didn't I See That Movie Already?


Don't you love it when two (or more) movies come out at the same time that seem to be pretty much the same movie? We've seen this before with "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon," "Capote" and "Infamous," and "Dangerous Liaisons" and "Valmont." Well, it has happened again this holiday season with two new adventure movies. The first is "Bedtime Stories" starring Adam Sandler as a guy whose bedtime stories he reads to children magically come true and create all sorts of antics. The second is "Inkheart" starring Brendan Fraser as a guy whose bedtime stories he reads to children magically come true and create all sorts of antics. So what are the studios thinking? Instead of expecting us to see the same movie twice, perhaps we'll go see two versions of the same movie once? Could be just a case of the same story being pitched to both Disney and Warner Brothers, but they know what's in each other's pipeline. Historically, this has not been a recipe for success, as most of these same-plot combo flicks each did not do well at the box office (save "Armageddon"/"Deep Impact"). It seems like they could just pick up the phone and coordinate more, so that we can have more variety when we go (or don't go) to the theaters. Other plot combos have included:
  • "Antz" and "A Bug's Life"
  • "Tombstone" and "Wyatt Earp"
  • "Dante's Peak" and "Volcano"
  • "The Prestige" and "The Illusionist"
Please comment on others you can think of.

Surface Surfaces!

Sheraton Surface

Well, it's here. I've come across my first Microsoft Surface in actual commercial use. I'm staying at the Sheraton Boston near the Prudential Center, and there in the lobby was a shiny new Surface. I must say, I was pretty impressed. It was placed in the lobby just to the right of the reception desk. It had four Ottoman-style chairs around it, so that someone from either side could operate it. In short, it was like an automated concierge. In long, here's the critique:

  • The interface is as easy to operate as the demos at the trade shows. Moving, arranging, stretching, and zooming were very simple and responsive.
  • Depending on which side of the table you were on, you could choose to orient the display to face one way or the other.
  • They had set up a nice little area for it right outside the Starbucks, so it was placed in a convenient, inviting area.
  • With the screen saver on, everyone passing by probably just thought it was a horizontal piece of art, so getting some time on it was no problem. I really don't think anyone else knew what the heck it was.
  • Looking at an interactive map on a display that large is quite useful. It sort of points out the shortcomings of a teeny display like the iPhone or even worse, a BlackBerry.
  • The functionality of this Surface was not quite what they showed in their feature video.
  • It had a limited number of pre-programmed attactions, restaurants, bars, etc. to show. I would have preferred a fully searchable device that had thousands of area listings.
  • The map, albeit great to view on a large display, had no search capability, a la Google Maps or even Microsoft Live Maps.
  • And then what? So you've looked up 5 great shops, restaurants, and bars to hit that night. After seeing them on the Surface, you're forced to then write them down ... or take the table with you, I suppose. It would be great if it let you at least print out or e-mail your findings.
While operating it, a young woman came up to me, amazed, and asked me what it was. I guess I have to expand outside my world of influence, because I assumed everyone knew what the Surface was at this point, but I was happy to demonstrate it to her. I felt like one of those people in that initial promotional video Microsoft made, or the even-better spoof video. All said, it was a pretty useful tool for finding information from a limited pool, but the Boston Sheraton needs to promote it more or at least have a sign near it that reads, "Hey, come check out this wicked cool table."

President Obama

It has a nice ring to it. As the days pass after the presidential election, the gravity of the outcome has been slowly sinking in. Set aside the realization of ridding our great nation of a lame lame-duck president. It's the impact of having our first black president that has me still in awe. Mind you, when I went into that voting booth on Tuesday, I did not choose a black candidate; I chose a great candidate. Much in the same way I don't vote along party lines, I likewise do not vote along racial divides. And yet I don't wish to diminish the importance of America's first black president. It is truly historic. We are barely half a century removed from bathrooms and facilities for "colored", lynchings, and Jim Crow laws. And even today, something as seemingly innocuous as "skin-toned bandages" still carries a racial ignorance. However, these are injustices I will never fully know -- never fully comprehend -- because of the color of my own skin. So when a nation of predominantly white citizens speaks up and says, "I believe in this man," I can only imagine it propels us forward, as a nation, in the healing of our ugly racial scars. So it is now, with a president-elect Barack Obama, that I can once again hold my head high and say that I am proud to be an American.