I went to Wal-Mart last night to buy some toilet paper. You see, I’m just like you! We’re relatable!
You frugalites (is that even a word?) aren’t going to like this, but I buy the nice toilet paper. It’s the BMW of ass wipe. It’s the creme de la creme of sh*t tickets. It’s Proctor and Gamble’s very own premium brand Charmin.
The reasoning behind my extravagance is relatively simple. I don’t want to wipe with scratchy toilet paper. This may be too much detail, but I do not want my finger poking though when I wipe. This just isn’t good. So I buy the Charmin. Hate it if you may, but you do have to admit that nice toilet paper makes for a better wiping experience.
You are enjoying reading about my ass wiping habits, right? Okay, I’ll get to the point.
So I’m in Wal-Mart picking up my usual thing of Charmin when I notice the sheet count, somewhat hidden on the package and written in a small font, but still legible. It read 264 sheets. I thought this was odd. I thought I remembered that the sheet count was a nice even number before. I paid for my toilet paper and came home, knowing I still had the wrapper from the old toilet paper I bought. In fact, I remembered, this wrapper was from months ago since I stocked up the last time Charmin was on sale.
I dug out the wrapper and sure enough the last package’s rolls each had 300 sheets. They reduced the sheet count by 12% and kept the price the same. Those sneaky bastards!
Being in the potato chip business, I’m well aware of this practice. I wrote about it way back in February. What companies do is slowly decrease the size of the product and charge the same price. This is a far better idea than the alternative of raising prices. Consumers will quickly go on the internet to complain about any price increase.
Back in January my chip company decreased sizes on just about every bag of potato varieties (but not corn varieties). Guess how many people noticed? If you did, congratulate yourself because you’re in a very small group.
One thing to note is decreasing the size 12% isn’t the same as a 12% price increase. Packaging still costs the same, so does shipping and marketing and a million other input costs. If the product itself represents 20% of the total cost to produce, then this is more like a 2% price increase.
If no one notices is it still a rip-off?
Proctor and Gamble
For those of you unaware, Proctor and Gamble is one of the largest consumer products companies in the world. Here’s a sampling of their best selling brands:
- Head and Shoulders/Pert Plus/Pantene
- Cover Girl
- Crest/Oral B
There’s more. I just got bored after typing out 10. Each of these brands does over a billion dollars in sales. Needless to say, the folks who run Proctor and Gamble know what they’re doing.
See if you can figure out the similarities with each of those brands. I’ll give you the answer by the end of the post.
What’s The Point Of All This?
There are 3 types of toilet paper customers. Which one are you?
1. I buy the cheapest toilet paper I can. Whatever’s cheap I buy. Store brand me baby!
2. I buy a decent brand, but only when it’s on sale. I’m a middle of the road shopper.
3. Give me the good stuff! I want to feel like I’m wiping with a pillow! My ass craves a comfortable wipe!
No matter what product you buy, those are essentially the 3 options you have. You can go with the cheap brand, the middle brand or the top brand. Whether you’re buying electronics or toilet paper or barbeque sauce, those are your 3 options. There might be 10 different brands in each category, but each aims for a certain kind of shopper.
Getting back to those Proctor and Gamble brands, which type of shopper are they aiming for? It’s not 1 or 2.
Proctor and Gamble’s brands can hardly be described as cheap. Pampers are definitely more expensive than their competitors. So are Gillette razors and Duracell batteries and every other example on that list. Their competitors undercut them on price all the time. Are they worth the premium price? For most of their stuff I’d say no, but that’s coming from the guy who’s willing to pay extra for their toilet paper.
So how do they get people to spend extra? It’s the marketing. Think about the commercials you see for these brands. They always focus on the advantages of the product. Pampers ads talk about how they absorb more baby poo. Cover Girl’s ads imply all you need is a little lip gloss and blush and you could look like Taylor Swift. Duracell is trusted by important things like fire departments and hospitals because they’re the best. Nowhere is price mentioned. Nowhere do the mention anything about being cheaper than the competition. They make you want to buy the product, price be damned. That’s good marketing.
Certain frugality bloggers get outraged when companies do this. Let’s not mention any names, you can just go back to this post if you’re curious about it. Rather than be outraged about companies trying to sell you things, you should realize it, give them props for doing such a good job and maybe look at buying shares.
What can this teach you about business? It’s simple really. Is your business catering to customer type 1, 2 or 3? If you’re a fellow blogger, how about your blog? Seeing Proctor and Gamble’s success, which customer do you want- the one who views your product as a commodity or the one who loves the brand? Proctor and Gamble gets it, do you?