Toilet Instructions


I recently spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand. Beautiful country.

One of the most memorable things I saw there: Signs illustrating the right way to pooh.

This is not B.S. These signs were as common as fart jokes in a boys locker room.

On the right… a drawing of a person sitting on a toilet. There’s a green checkmark next to that drawing. On the left, a drawing of a person with feet on the toilet seat, squatting over the bowl. That’s a no-no. Big red “X” next to that drawing.

Toilet dos-and-don'ts diagram

One takeaway: If you’ve seen one toilet, you HAVEN’T seen ‘em all.

You’ve got your “modern” sit-down, flush toilets. You’ve got your primitive, outhouse toilets. And you’ve got your pit toilets.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure: A pit toilet is a big hole in the floor — sometimes with plumbing attached, often without. Spread your feet to shoulder-width. Bend your knees and lower your butt until you’re in position, and then…

(Who needs a thigh-master when you have a pit toilet?)

I tried to imagine what pit-toiletaires must think the first time they see a sit-down toilet…

…Why is the pit elevated?

Or the first time they figure out the operating instructions for that sit-down toilet…

…Wait a minute!? I’m supposed to sit with my bare legs on THAT!?

(Maybe squatting on a toilet rim doesn’t seem so crazy after all.)

Anyhow, the folks who run public bathrooms in New Zealand figured that some of their visitors needed crapping/peeing instructions.

(Common myth: Thomas Crapper invented flush toilets, thus pooh has a synonym in his honor. Not true. Crapper popularized the device that was invented years earlier. “Crap” had already dropped into English slang long before Thomas did his business).

Naturally, there are marketing lessons to digest here…

First, know your market.

If your market is comprised only of sit-down-toiletaires, no need for poohing instructions. But as tourism has grown in New Zealand, and the market has shifted to include pit-toiletaires, new messaging was required.

As your target market shifts, your messaging must shift.

Also, if you want to change behavior or drive action, you must deliver clear, concise, direct messages. Don’t assume your target audience will act without your direction.

That applies to emails, websites, social media posts, letters, telemarketing scripts and…and, of course, toilets.

You must deliver the call-to-action and operating instructions.

So let’s toast the public toilet operators in New Zealand who got it right. Raise your glasses and… bottoms up!

Don't go away yet..

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Tom Ruwitch

Tom Ruwitch is the founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. For more than 30 years, he has helped businesses grow by delivering powerful stories using a variety of different media.

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