Beyonce does it. President Obama does it. The Queen of England does it. In fact, everyone does it. Yes, as the time honored 1977 children’s book penned by Tarō Gomi asserts, “Everyone Poops.”
Yet while every global citizen, whether they care to admit it or not, partake in this daily practice, you may be surprised to know that most of us, do it wrong. That is, unless, you’re the proud owner of a Squatty Potty.
Developed by Robert “Bobby” Edwards, the Squatty Potty is aiming to rewrite the narrative of how people poop. Backed by the FDA, Edwards and his family discovered the key to better bowel movements comes down to one simple thing: squatting. Appearing on Shark Tank, Dr. Oz and Howard Stern, the Squatty Potty has garnered widespread visibility and is successfully changing the status quo of bathroom behavior.
Boasting some of modern day’s most illustrious commercials as well as support from celebrity businesswoman, Lori Greiner, the Squatty Potty has gained a near cult like following. Luckily, despite Squatty Potty’s rapid growth, Edwards took the time to chat with TechDay about he turned a taboo daily reality into a profitable business.
Squatty Potty has taken arguably one of the least sexy realities of daily life and made a successful business out of it, what were the original challenges in terms of marketing in first getting the company off the ground?
Actually, that was what attracted me to the idea of the Squatty Potty initially. I thought it was pretty amazing and crazy that everyone was doing something wrong and nobody was talking about it, whether they were embarrassed, considered it taboo etc. But, I like the taboo, I thought creating a product around toilet posture was funny. The general notion that we should be squatting to poop is hilarious.
When the idea arose, I talked to my friends about it over cocktails at dinner and could just picture the commercials and advertising for it. So I wasn’t afraid of this “unsexy” topic, but rather was inspired by it.
When I really got going, however, reality set in and I started getting turned away from a lot of different news outlets. Simple advertisements we’d put together where the word “poop” would appear in the display, would quickly get shot down and I realized that this was going to be much tricker than I thought.
Squatty Potty’s commercials are some of the most widely recognized advertisements, how did the idea of a pooping unicorn come to fruition and what was the thought behind it?
Those commercials were an evolution that coincided with people within the last five years becoming more open to the idea of having a conversation about poop. An important moment in this shift occurred when Oprah and Dr Oz did the “poop special.” Oprah was talking about the shape and size of our poop and Dr. Oz was affirming how important it is to look before we flush etc. This drove widespread acceptance around poop conversations and created a window for Squatty Potty content.
Yet the next challenge in advertising came from finding something to say about poop that’s not cliche, and that hasn’t been done before. There’s so many poop puns and jokes that are so overused that they’re really not funny. To help with this, we went to the Harmon Brothers who had a track record of creating viral videos that I personally thought were funny and gave them a Squatty Potty to try. They came back and loved it, especially Jeff Harmon’s wife who really encouraged him to take on the product. So we began working with them and ultimately surmounted that what we needed to figure out was how do we talk about poop without talking about poop?
The idea of ice cream came up; soft served ice cream, and we then had to find a clever way to expand on that metaphor. When this process was occurring, unicorns were extremely popular in pop culture, so we ran with that. The advertisements today featuring the unicorn pooping rainbow soft serve was the final result of all this, and we all know what the outcome of that was.
As Squatty Potty’s innovation is driven by scientific fact, what do you do in terms of voice and overall branding in breaking down the science into something consumers can more easily digest, so to speak.
It was all about crafting the right copy. In the beginning, when we started Squatty Potty we knew the product worked and knew it could really change people’s day to day lives, but we didn’t know what the content should be. My mom, actually was very influential in the Squatty Potty’s evolution as she felt the product changed her life and felt compelled to tell her story.
We started giving Squatty Potty’s away as gifts and word of mouth initially functioned as a big marketing ploy for us, a very grassroots method. And as soon as we realized we had a little business, we started doing some trade shows. We went to this local “What Women Want” expo to highlight the Squatty Potty and further get the word out. When we arrived, we were placed next to these botox people and these hair and nail people, and then there was us in the midst of all this. At this point, our marketing wasn’t quite crafted yet, Squatty Potty was relatively unknown and we honestly almost got laughed out of that event.
Afterwards we were really discouraged, but my mom, instead, saw it as an opportunity. She told me “this is a chance for us to really craft our content and message.” And she was right, we broke down what our product was really about: the whole “kink and unkink” narrative and that ended up really connecting with consumers. As soon as people grasped this concept that sitting while pooping, you’re only partially relaxed and when you’re squatting, you’re fully relaxed, turned a light on for people. Simplifying this science behind our product clearly resonated, plus the fact that we have FDA approval to talk about the kink and the unkink because there is enough evidence that it’s true. So that experience of going out into the public in the beginning was invaluable in creating the whole messaging for Squatty Potty.
As Squatty Potty appeared on ABC’s show Shark Tank, how were you able to keep the momentum going following the airing of your episode?
It’s interesting, we’ve had all these series of big media hits that have continually kept us going. In the very beginning it was us reaching out to bloggers and health writers and giving them a Squatty Potty with a little note that said, “this is something that works for my mom if it works for you great. If you like it write about it. Please.” And then about 3 weeks later, we got a hit from a paleo blog with about 200,000 followers saying that she tried the Squatty Potty and loved it. So that was an initial big hit for us which led to all these other bloggers writing about it, particularly one’s who’d write about alternative health, mommy bloggers etc. And then we got Dr. Oz to talk about it, then Howard Stern, and then Shark Tank.
And Shark Tank was incredibly successful for us. If nothing else, just the publicity companies get from the show is massive, and luckily for us people also really connected with our product. The continued publicity after the airing of our episode was also very beneficial. Publications like Forbes, Businessweek and Business Insider etc were writing about us which significantly spurred our visibility.
Being on the show was also extremely helpful in that it garnered us a celebrity, Lori Greiner as a member of our team. People are always interested in what she’s doing and where we are now because of our Shark Tank experience. And media outlets in general are always more likely to talk about us if we talk about the Shark Tank episode because that’s something that people are interested in and that their readers are interested in. So it just opens doors and it makes the whole publicity machine much more easy. You just kinda milk it.
What advice would you offer early stage startup founders looking to solve a problem people didn’t know they had? How would you recommend they dismantle what seems like a huge undertaking in changing the way people think?
I immediately think of content when I hear this. When you have a product that requires some education, you need content to get that message to the consumer. And this doesn’t have to cost you 100’s of 1000’s of dollars. We had a video in the early stages of Squatty Potty that talked about our discovery with toilet posture and how it can affect your health. It just was about $5000 dollars and it got over 1.2 million views in the first year. So it wasn't a big viral hit, but it was something people learned something from and when people learn something they feel inclined to share it. If you make, we call it “edutainment” something that entertains and educates, that’s the best thing you can do.
What can we expect to see from Squatty Potty in the near future? Any upcoming innovations?
Bloomberg just did a bit on Squatty Potty that they called it the “Cult of the Squatty Potty,” and I think that really encapsulates the sentiments of our consumers. For many people who use it, like my mom, the product is life changing and people love it. So we have this audience and we’ve created something and now it’s all about the better bathroom experience overall. There are a lot of bathroom accessories that were developing and creating to achieve the best bathroom experience. We’re aiming to make it more pleasant because for so many people, it's always been such an unpleasant thing. We want to discover what innovations there are in the bathroom regarding things we don’t talk about or are afraid to talk about and tackle those remaining issues. So that's where we’re going.