Branding in the Bathroom

The Cintas Corporation announced recently its new signature series of customized restroom dispensers geared toward extending a company’s brand identity to the bathroom. For Cintas, this appears to be a very natural product extension and a growth opportunity for the business, but does it really make sense for a company to extend its brand to the restroom? Dave Mesko, senior director of marketing for Cintas, said in a statement “The opportunity to promote your brand shouldn’t be limited to a logo, sign or apparel.”

I couldn’t agree with him more. However, bathroom soap and paper towel dispensers that display your brand’s identity might be misaligned with where customers expect and desire to see your brand. Environmental branding and experience creation are top priorities from my perspective, but my work with brands has shown that not all touch points are created equal.

The “brand everything” mentality just doesn’t work anymore. In the 1980s and 90s it may have been considered appropriate to put your brand in an ashtray or on a walkway, for instance. Those of us in branding today, however, work so hard to keep our brands strong and meaningful in a highly competitive space. Why in the world would you allow someone to put their cigarette out on your brand’s identity? Or even walk on it? As you consider the places where your brand could and should live, does allowing people to step on your identity align with the type of experience you are hoping to create?

photo credit: bps supply
photo credit: bps supply

McDonald’s Bathroom Branding

This is not to say that bathrooms can’t be a part of your brand. McDonald’s, for instance, is known the world over for its bathrooms. No matter where in the world you are, whether driving across the U.S. or visiting a location in Paris or Buenos Aires, you can count on the cleanliness of a McDonald’s bathroom. That is a part of what McDonald’s stands for as an organization. But you won’t find the logo applied to every surface or fixture in the bathroom. It’s simply clean and well maintained, which demonstrates that they are focused on the attributes that matter to their customers rather than focused on opportunistic branding on an empty surface.

Therein lies the challenge for Cintas and the brilliance of McDonald’s as we think about brand management. Cintas enables opportunistic branding with the potential of applying logo to any surface including the bathroom. The customer plays no role in this approach. McDonald’s understands that there are attributes that matter to customers when they are in the bathroom, and they aren’t swayed by the potential of making an incremental impression with a logo decal on a mirror or soap dispenser.

As you consider the deployment of your touchpoints, stretch your thinking beyond where you could apply your brand and focus on where you should. Because your touch points are the medium for your brand’s communication. So, for the love of your brand, please think twice about your branded touchpoints before you wallpaper your bathrooms. Afterall, what does THAT say about your brand?

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Dylon MacEachran
August 19, 2013 By Dylon MacEachran