Bored in the bathroom? Marketers should give you something to read.

Like all social scientists, I’m fascinated by patterns in human behavior–especially those that are hiding in plain sight. I encountered one while I was watching YouTube clips of Woody Harrelson films last week and happened across this scene:

There, from 1:20-1:30, was a little behavioral insight that led me to what I think is a rather clever marketing idea. Amazingly, some quick Googling led to a relevant academic study and this news article that described its findings. The researchers surveyed 500 people and reported that:

“More than half of the men (64%) and 41% of the women confessed to being regular toilet readers. More often than not, they described their reading material as “whatever is around”. In practice, this usually meant newspapers.”

It’s no secret that people read while in the bathroom. Some enterprising media companies have already taken advantage of captive audiences in public restrooms by selling ad space on posters hung above urinals and in stalls. But I can’t think of any marketers taking advantage of the potential to reach their customers in home bathrooms.

As the clip implies, the most obvious type of products that could exploit the opportunity are consumer packaged goods that are stored in the bathroom. I think the ideal category would be men’s body wash (I’m looking at you Axe and Dove Men + Care) because it’s a product that most consumers replace every four to six weeks. That purchase cycle lends itself to some kind of a serial story printed on on-package booklet labels (like this one), the assumption being that an interesting bit of reading will engage people with the brand and create brand loyalty by encouraging future purchases in order to find out what happens next in the series. Previous editions could be made available online so that new customers would be able to catch up to the current printing.

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