Just when you thought advertisers had put branding on just about everything, brothers Jordan and Bryan Silverman, 22 and 19, infiltrated a new and untapped market: They’re selling ad space on toilet paper. And Star Toilet Paper is kind of ingenious—where else do marketers have a guaranteed immobilized and bored consumer-base at their fingertips?
This isn’t the first time companies have toyed with creative ways to use toilet paper. Shitter will print your Twitter feed on toilet paper rolls, and Modernista enabled people in the Netherlands to wipe their behinds with Alec Baldwin’s mug on a 30 Rock toilet paper promotion.
But Star Toilet Paper isn’t looking to be a fad. The two brothers have already signed 55 local businesses and have been seeing positive results. It all started when Jordan, 22, was sitting on a toilet in the library his senior year at the University of Michigan, playing on his cell phone to pass the time. “I thought to myself, the bathroom is the one place that hasn’t been infiltrated by advertising.”
Easy as that, the concept for Star Toilet Paper was born.
“Jordan took the idea to me a few months later and at first I poo pooed it,” his brother Bryan, 19 (shown below), told BI. But then he realized that the bathroom was the ideal location to target an immobile, bored audience.
Bryan and Jordan didn’t see this as a fly-by-night business. “It took us about a year to file the legal forms to do the market research,” Bryan said. “We are at the intersection of a $100 billion ad industry and $4 million toilet paper industry.”
And think about it …
The bathroom is the perfect spot for targeting specific demographics.
First of all, men and women are already separated, so Star Toilet Paper can have a set of rolls for each.
And they can target different demographic groups, too, such as “a public library different from Ann Arbor college demo”—Star Toilet Papers beta-group—”because it caters to lots of children, families and senior citizens,” Bryan said. “So we are targeting companies that want that demographic in Westchester.”
Jordan started reaching out to any and all businesses nine months ago.
At first companies would laugh him off the phone for suggesting buying ad space on toilet paper rolls. A local pizza shop hung up on him before hearing the full pitch. But one eventually bit.
The first advertiser was a pet store called Fish Doctors that specializes in hundreds of kinds of fish.
Jordan brought over a demo-role, “and they thought it was hilarious,” he said. “They were throwing roles with each other and the owner actually bought an ad for two free goldfish.”
The plan is simple: local companies, primarily in Ann Arbor, can buy 20 thousand ads (on 150 rolls) for $99.
Did we mention it’s two-ply?
The first toilet paper prototype debuted in May 2012 at a University of Michigan apartment complex. Unsurprisingly, the college kids loved it.
Each roll has a series of eight images—seven for companies, one explaining how to redeem the coupon—that is repeated 120 times on a 100-sheet role.
To minimize waste (and toilet paper hoarding), consumers can scan a QR code and redeem the coupon online.
This way the Silvermans can track the online download rate and even how many people cash in on the coupon.
“We’re still measuring actual download rates, but for our May test run we saw companies get almost 30 coupon downloads in a single month,” Jordan said.
Jordan and Bryan give boxes of rolls to local theaters, restaurants, gyms, etc. across Ann Arbor. The store gets free toilet paper, and the boys get visibility.
Although some participating stores report confused employees receiving wads of toilet paper coupons.
“Obviously if you work at a restaurant, you aren’t expecting to be handed toilet paper,” Jordan said.
“We got a call from Dan’s Theater in Michigan,” Jordan continued, “and the director told me that he had to give one of the rolls away because a kid threw a temper tantrum, he liked it so much.”
Right now Star Toilet Paper is working with 55 local businesses including Ben & Jerry’s and Smoothie King. And they can guarantee industry-wide exclusivity, so you won’t see more than one pizza place coupon on a roll.
And who can resist the allure of free cupcakes? Or Ben and Jerry’s buy one get one free?
“We are right now operating on a profit-per-deal basis,” Jordan said, “but overall the company is operating at a small loss because everything we bring in is directly re-invested.”
But the company is getting some help. An economic development organization called Ann Arbor SPARK helped Star Toilet Paper get a $3,000 grant to help with patent expenses.
The company has also been named a finalist in Entrepreneur magazine’s College Entrepreneur of 2012 contest.
“We want this to be a fun product,” Bryan said. “My brother often hears participating companies say, ‘We’re going to wipe away the competition.'”
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Originally posted at: BI