Charmin makes toilet paper, and it has found a kick-butt way to deliver its brand to consumers: it opened a public bathroom in New York's Times Square, and invited everyone to sample the product.
For anyone who has walked around New York, this is a big deal, as most restaurants make a point of barring you from using the facilities unless you're a customer. Hotels are a good shot, but they're not every block, and there's no guarantee they'll let you go. The Times Square area is a notoriously difficult place in which to find a bathroom, and yet it's usually jam-packed with tourists, day and night.
So in rolls Charmin with what amounts to a public service as much as a branding campaign.
Sure, it's a product sampling opportunity, too, only I'd imagine it's hard to compare toilet paper products without an actual bottom-by-bottom test. Charmin works, obviously, and maybe that's the only experiential attribute that matters when duty calls.
The bigger aha of this campaign has nothing to do with wiping read-ends, though.
Contextual relevance is one of the primary litmus tests by which human beings assign recognition, meaning, and importance. That means it changes based on lots of variables: who you are, where you are, what you're doing, what you just did, and what you are about to do next. And only its most broad or generic attributes are sustainable over time.
Think of how much time and money is spent trying to fine-tune branding messages...yet I'd argue that little of it actually gets attached to brands.
In that sense, I'd also suggest that Charmin didn't have to provide an experience related to the attributes of its brand, functional or imaginary. It just had to do a good thing when and where people would recognize (and remember) it as such. The thematic relevance doesn't hurt, of course, but I wonder whether it's vital or even core to the execution?
Such a POV opens up a host of new opportunities for businesses to connect with consumers in real, meaningful ways. Who needs interruption or conversation when you can deliver a real benefit?