What bidets can teach us about disruption and authenticity

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Back at the beginning of the year, people would have called you crazy if you’d predicted mass shortages of toilet paper. And yet here we are.

The worst of TP shortages have mostly faded (fingers crossed that this remains the case), but the panic has created an unexpected opportunity for an item that’s long been mocked and scorned in the U.S.: the bidet.

At a recent Creative Team presentation, art director Caroline Woods showed how bidets are a great example of how sudden disruption can create big opportunities. Especially when you have strong creative.

First of all, if you don’t know what a bidet is, go here. We’ll wait.

Okay, for our purposes, it’s worth noting that various companies have tried to get Americans to accept bidets over several decades, but it’s never worked. Americans are just perplexed, turned off, or confused by the darn things, despite their popularity in other countries.

Enter the pandemic and the run on toilet paper. Now, Tushy, a company founded in 2015 with the stated goal of replacing toilet paper, is making the most of the TP shortage. Even before the pandemic, they’d run ads that are frank, honest, and delightfully out-there (so much so that the New York subway system refused to run them). The ads were aimed not just at getting attention but reducing the stigma of bidets.

Tushy has also pushed the environmental benefits of bidets, noting that bidets waste less water and cause less pollution than toilet paper.

Tushy was founded by Miki Agrawal, whose previous company, Thinx, proclaimed itself as selling “underwear for women with periods.” It too grabbed attention for its honest, frank advertising, and some venues wouldn’t run its ads simply because they used the word “periods.”

The lessons? People crave authenticity and honesty, and we’re tired of ads that feel stale and worn. We give bonus points to a brand that has a purpose beyond just making a buck and can reach us in a human, approachable way.

And this: social context provides an opportunity for disruption. We’re all feeling plenty disrupted right now, and brands that know how to use that to their advantage can capitalize.

At FortyFour, we’ve worked with several purpose-driven brands, like Credo Mobile, Jaipur Living and Liberty Cannabis, and we love seeing companies put their values at the forefront. At a time when people are under great stress and habits are changing quickly, now is the time for companies to respond with honest, insightful messaging that makes a real connection.

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