The bathroom experience presents so many opportunities to be memorable, yet so many businesses just, if you’ll excuse the expression, piss it away. (See what I did there?)
Bathrooms are the perfect microcosm for the customer experience because there are clear minimum requirements and yet customers don’t really expect anything more. So “toilet humor” is an easy opportunity to exceed expectations and create a memorable bathroom experience.
It was a running joke on the Experience This! podcast between me and my cohost, Joey Coleman, that I love bathroom humor. Note that this isn’t about dirty jokes; it’s about turning the bathroom experience into something unexpected and fun.
Let’s look at some examples.
Witty Bathroom Signage
Remember that being Witty is not necessarily about being super funny; it’s about being clever, using language to your advantage, and refusing to be boring. We just want the bathroom experience to be memorable.
Every time we communicate with customers, it’s an opportunity to create and experience, even if it’s just to put a smile on someone’s face. It’s OK to have some fun with your customers and show some brand personality at the same time.
The traveling exhibition, Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is as much a technology exhibit as it is a fine art one. But my favorite part was the series of signs that used Van Gogh’s famous sunflowers as well as the spelling of his last name.
The bathroom sign, for example, says “Gotta Gogh?” with an arrow pointing to the bathroom. Now I didn’t see anyone laughing hysterically, but I did see a lot of people smiling and taking pictures of that sign. And if you can get people smiling on the way to the bathroom, you’re off to a good start.
Not to be outdone, Sushi-san restaurant in Chicago features a lit-up sign with the ubiquitous “poop emoji” to direct patrons to the bathroom instead of the same international stick figure bathroom symbols as everyone else.
It’s not like anyone doesn’t get it.
In my keynote presentations, I like to show the traditional sign next to the poop emoji sign, asking rhetorically, “Why would you use this international symbol for the bathroom when you could use this international symbol for the bathroom?”
Of course the second sign always draws a laugh from the audience, but also from customers at the restaurant. And if you can get customers laughing on the way to the bathroom, now you are really doing something right.
A blog reader who knows my affinity for bathroom signage sent me this one, which was spotted in a UK bathroom: “Please don’t flush nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, your ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet.”
See how it got the point across—we’ve all seen similar signs like this in bathrooms—while also having some fun and causing a little bit of laughter in an unexpected place? That’s how easy it is to create a memorable bathroom experience that customers will love.
Another reader sent me this one from Torchy’s Tacos:
“You want the toilet paper. We want you to download our app. Let’s not make this weird.”
I mean, they’ve got a captive audience, right?
Another great sign is the infamous male and female icons both covering their private parts and crossing their legs because… well, you know exactly why.
And then there’s one spotted in Hollywood North Beach Park in Florida, that has a handicap symbol, a female symbol, a male symbol, a symbol that looks like it’s half male and half female, and an alien in a sexy pose. The words: “Whatever. Just please wash your hands.”
After all, when it comes to bathroom humor, urine good company! (Thanks to ChatGPT for that zinger.)
The Men’s Bathroom
We’re going to take a pit stop in what can sometimes be a scary place: the men’s room. But it wasn’t scary at Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center during a conference featuring commercial building contractors plus cleaning and sanitation professionals. It was actually quite a memorable bathroom experience.
That’s because one vendor, which sells floor mats that are placed underneath urinals, featured marketing right there in the men’s room in the form of actual floor mats placed underneath urinals:
“Aren’t you glad you aren’t’ currently standing in another man’s pee?” read one, along with the booth number of the vendor. Another just featured a hashtag: #ThisOrPiss.
How could you not stop by that booth after you’re done with your business?
In a related example, aboard the U.S.S. Midway in San Diego, California, the urinals feature a soccer goal and a soccer ball which is hanging by a string, so it moves when you… well I think you get the idea.
Folks, if someone can create a remarkable customer experience in a urinal, don’t you think you can do it in your business?
(Potential accompanying sign: “Urinal-lot of trouble if you don’t wash your hands!”)
Helpful Bathroom Signage
Bathrooms don’t always have to be Witty; they can also feature Immersive or Extraordinary experiences as well.
At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, digital signs tell passengers how many bathroom stalls are available at a particular location, as well as where the next restroom is located. Inside the bathroom, red and green lights atop each stall indicate whether or not it is occupied.
Pretty cool, right?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Lettuce Entertain You restaurants posted signs in every bathroom that were so effective, most restaurants still display them today:
The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds. Lettuce Entertain You wants to give you a little help to make sure you are washing your hands correctly. Please lather up and continue reading!
The average reading speed of most adults is 250 words per minute. This means that in 20 seconds, the average person is capable of reading 84 words! Wow, we have already made it 33 words together. Keep scrubbing and don’t forget the backs of your hands, fingers and under your fingernails too. At this point we have journeyed 59 words together. That was fast. Are your hands starting to feel clean yet? We’re almost there. 20 seconds complete in just three, two, one. FINISHED!
Thank you for being our guest. Please use a hand towel to open the door.
I love this sign, because it’s fun to read and it actually does the job of helping people wash their hands for a full 20 seconds. Funny and practical – an unbeatable combination.
Sometimes it’s the products inside the bathroom that are more memorable than the bathroom itself.
A company called Natüra Nü provides the The Coeur d’Alene Golf & Spa Resort in Idaho with bars of soap that have large holes in the middle – including in the box.
The back of the box reads: “This innovative ergonomically shaped waste-reducing soap has been designed to eliminate the unused center of traditional soap bars.”
I would tell a joke about a soap, but I’m afraid it’s a slippery subject.
In all seriousness though, as a guy who often brings the unused portion of hotel soaps home because the wastefulness bothers me, I thought this idea was absolutely brilliant. And kudos to the resort for buying these bars, which I’m guessing were not cheaper just because they were missing some soap in the middle.
About a decade ago, three friends started Who Gives A Crap (.org), a company that sells bamboo-based toilet paper that is better for the planet.
The website tells the origin story: “Sure, we love puppies and sunny days and walks on the beach, but our real love is toilet paper. Why, you might ask? First of all, it’s funny. Lots of room for toilet jokes, which we love.”
I say toilet paper jokes are tearable, but we’ll roll with them anyway.
The site continues: “But really, we love toilet paper because for us, it’s our way of making a difference. We started Who Gives A Crap when we learnt that 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet (now 2 billion – yay for progress!)”
The company donates 50% of profits “to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.”
(I had a joke about toilets too, but it’s not quite flushed out.)
Do you have a memorable bathroom experience that you’d like to share? Please email Dan and it might appear in a future post!
All photos by Dan Gingiss except where noted. Any trademarks remain with their original owners.