How to improve over-hyped marketing

Over the last few weeks, we've noticed some design innovation the bathroom. First, we found Mira's new Platinum shower system, which enables the user to switch on the shower remotely, from a distance of up to 10 meters (!) so that when we ‘arrive at shower’, it’s ready to go, with water already running and piping hot.

I know. You don’t believe me, so click here for the link.

This range of showers also boasts “Flipstream technology”, which in English means that the showerhead has four spray types. According to the promotional video though, these offer four different “showering experiences” as follows:

  1. Rain – “drenching”
  2. Cloud – “soft, sooth and surprisingly soaking”
  3. Storm – “breathtaking”
  4. Burst – “awesome sheet of water”

I should point out here that I have not physically tested this shower range. Nevertheless, I find it really hard to think of a shower experience as “surprisingly soaking” – instead, I’d always (naively?) considered this rather fundamental for a shower.


Then, last week, we found adverts for Gerberit’s new AquaClean toilet range – “the WC that cleans you with water…. and boosts a sense of physical well-being.” Gerberit challenges us to think differently about how to go about life's most basic of functions. Borrowing from cultures where toilet paper isn't seen as hygienic or practical, their device provides water jets and air streams to wash and dry the user in the relevant places (there are boy and girl programme variants, from massage to oscillating to ‘Lady’). Critically, there are programmable presets to save the routine that’s right for you, as well as a “handy remote control unit” (the website did not state the operating range of this, but I’m sure they’d welcome a call to discuss it)

OK – in presenting these innovations, my tone is a little flippant, I’ll grant you. And it’s certainly true that, compared to the kitchen or living room, the bathroom environment hasn’t had its fair share of digital makeover. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that some of the features of these devices even have a few benefits too (the Platinum shower has ‘eco’ options to save water, whilst the AquaClean has a dirt-repellant finish to the ceramic, making it easier to clean).

But I can’t help feeling that the marketing of these products is running away with itself. Customers don’t need ‘remote-control-with-everything’, and there’s heaps of research to prove that they dislike having so many different remote units to learn how to operate. Furthermore, using words like breathtaking to describe a shower is most commonly experienced when the water is too cold or too hot, rather than the thrill-seeking appetite that a rollercoaster or sports car evokes.

But let’s get serious now.

Clayton Christensen, in his work on disruptive technology, spoke about customers ‘hiring’ a product to undertake a task, focusing on the “job to be done”, and targeting fundamental flaws in established products that could be improved upon. Make a breakthrough for a customer segment that really needs such flaws fixed, and the product becomes a winner.

Customer Faithful conducted some research earlier this year, with people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). One of their most debilitating problems is loss of hand dexterity, as well as overall mobility, including standing up and sitting down. These issues can cause problems dealing with personal hygiene, which in turn can cause social and psychological distress. Some of the technology and ideas we’ve seen in the bathroom innovation described above could offer genuine quality-of-life improvement for people dealing with RA and a wide range of other health conditions.

Personally, I don’t expect Platinum or AquaClean to make a ‘breaktaking’ difference to most peoples’ lives, and in truth, I suspect their marketing teams don’t either. That’s because going to the toilet, or even taking a shower isn’t something we get excited about. But if they focused on customers for whom these everyday tasks were a challenge, and for whom any improvement could change their quality of life, that would genuinely provide the marketers with something to talk about, and be very worthwhile in the process.

Link to: Gerberit's AquaClean Toilet Range