Trading up with toilet paper

Silverstein & Fiske write about trading up as the greatest thing to ever happen to marketing, while David Brooks and James Twitchell take an amusing and satirical look on it all. While both views offer an entertaining read, I never thought Silverstein/Fiske's phrase "trading up" would be pushed into the consumer lexicon as an executional element.

And if the phrase is going to be used, who would've thought it would be Quilted Northern bath tissue? (click "view latest TV commercial" - bottom right area). Their latest ad opens on a young busy female taking a fancified Starbucks drink to go with the Quilted Northern mascots looking approvingly on, then we see her receiving highlight recommendations from what looks to be an expensive stylist. Next, we see her in the toilet paper aisle. An announcer then comes on the speaker system, "...attention Kate, choose Quilted Northern ultra. You trade up for everything else, why not your bath tissue?"

Regardless of other flaws in the ad, the connection between Starbucks-expensive haircut-nice toilet paper kinda makes sense to me, but what does the average person think of it? Toilet paper can be the source of emotional debates from time to time, and kudos to the planners for seeing the potential here and leading the strategy down the trading up road. Just seems a little odd to execute using that language... let's see if other brands start jumping on the bandwagon as consumers begin to understand what it means. Another feminine product already has with it's "upgradeville" campaign.


At 8:39 AM , Blogger john gibson said...

I've seen that ad myself, and while I wouldn't call it impressive (or even good necessarily) it does win the prize for most ambitious.

I've never entirely bought into the whole "low vs. high involvement product" dynamic. I think personal factors are much more likely to dictate people's consumption behavior, than say usage situation or price point.

The issue I see with this strategy is the fact that in most of these "trading up" situations, you are dealing with publicly consumed/displayed purchases (e.g., Starbucks coffee, expensive haircuts)-- so there may be hint of vanity at play... You get to show it off. Not so with toilet paper. Regardless, it is certainly an interesting approach.

At 9:29 PM , Anonymous josh said...

right on, John. Most those brands on the 'Trading Up' book cover have a vanity factor to them... Callaway, Viking, BMW. Victoria's Secret does stand out as a brand that others may not necessarily see (kinda like the toilet paper), but there's something about wearing that brand makes women feel good about themselves. It's tough for toilet paper, floss, tampons, etc. to piggyback on trading up when brand use isn't seen by others AND it doesn't make people feel good.

At 7:18 PM , Anonymous josh said...

just saw this on american copywriter:

At 1:05 AM , Anonymous Rob @ Cynic said...

This sort of thing makes me laugh - as well as annoys me - and it seems alot of the World are agreeing given that 'trading down' is the growing trend - especially when linked to you knowing what 'really is important in life!'


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