The Toilet Paper Game Changer

Kimberley-Clark has not had what some would call a sterling reputation in the eco-world, according to an article in USA Today.

That makes their announcement that they are test-marketing a new tube-less toilet paper roll even bigger news.  It follows on their Smart Flush Bag, a water-saving device for the toilet, announced last year and is part of a larger strategy to reverse their reputation and take advantage of a more environmentally conscious consumer marketplace.

Good for them.

It's also not by accident that they're introducing the new product through Walmart and Sam's Club (a part of the Walmart corporation).

By being the only provider of the product for the foreseeable future, Walmart simultaneously increases its enviro-cred and gets a jump on the rest of the market ahead of when the product goes national.  Or global.

And, typical of Walmart, they are setting the competitive price base point against which every other shop or chain that sells the product will have to compete.

But there's another game changer in here and it's one worth looking at by every corporation - because it shows just how valuable innovation can be.

First, the numbers.  According to the article, Kimberley-Clark estimates that:

  • 17 billion toilet paper tubes are produced each year in the United States
  • If placed end-to-end, the tubes would do a double round-trip to the moon
  • Because the tubes aren't always recycled, they account for as much as 160 million pounds of landfill-bound trash.

By doing something as simple as figuring out how to get rid of the tube, Kimberley-Clark can make the case that it's changing the world.  It's doing good.  It's supporting the environment and the consumer's need to contribute to the protection of planet earth.

Great marketing.

But what it has also done is energize a product and market that has been stagnant for years.  Sure there were advertised changes to softness, aesthetic design and scent - but, for the most part, toilet paper has been toilet paper for decades.

Now, through innovation, there will be a completely new reason for consumers not only to think about which brand of toilet paper to buy, they will be able to clearly discriminate between Kimberley-Clark's brands and any others with the tube still in.

Big win.

Moreover, Kimberley-Clark is looking at extending the technology to paper towels - another market that has had little movement over the years.

Bigger win - because it's simply building on what it's already achieved.  The hard work is done.  Now it's just profits.

Too often, innovation is seen only in the context of new information technologies.  If it's not an Amazon or a Facebook or a Twitter - let alone all the b2b applications that make up how every company does business every day - it's not innovation.


From changing how you answer the phones to finding a way to remove a tube from a household product, innovation is innovation.  It doesn't have to be big and sexy.  It just has to represent positive, developmental change in how you do business and what you offer your customers.

So, manufacturer or service provider, the question for you is:

What innovation opportunities are out there as well as within your enterprise that you can start to access and move on - now - to create an even more successful future?

Figure it out.  Because someone else is already working on it.