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Toilet paper goes chic

Last updated 11:16 30/12/2011

Kimberly-Clark is looking to shake up the toilet-paper accessory category with toilet roll covers from designer Jonathan Adler.

To boost awareness about a new formulation of its Cottonelle toilet paper that it says is 30 per cent stronger, Kimberly-Clark decided to forgo traditional advertising. Instead, it's offering limited-edition boxes to hide your backup rolls. Who knew you needed such a thing?

It's the latest effort by consumer product makers to spice up stagnant categories with eye-catching design. In 2010, Kotex introduced the "U by Kotex" line of pads and tampons with neon packaging and pad carriers designed by stylist Patricia Fields, for example.

Allen Adamson, managing director of global branding firm Landor in New York, said Target has successfully brought design to a lot of consumer product categories with such lines as the housewares rethought by renowned industrial designer Michael Graves.

But it's new for toilet paper.

"It's just surprising when design finally meets toilet paper - that's sort of the final frontier," Adamson said.

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Even though it's a US$10 billion (NZ$12.9b) industry, according to Nielsen, most people don't pay attention to which toilet paper roll they buy - or they stay loyal to one brand for decades.

"Consumers shop on autopilot and shop quite a bit on deal," in the toilet-paper aisle, admitted Kurt Simon, brand director for Cottonelle. "They tune out when they go into the aisle. And, largely speaking, they tune out (toilet paper) advertising as well."

Adler created covers in three bright, geometric patterns. Known for bold colours and pop graphics, he has designed everything from home furnishings to hotels and currently operates 16 of his own stores.

The roll covers will be available in January at respecttheroll.com for a shipping charge of US$1.99 plus an offer code from a package of Cottonelle toilet paper. Or you can order one now for US$3.99, including shipping.

Adler, whose other projects have included straws for extra-skinny Diet Pepsi cans, said the uniqueness of toilet paper covers appealed to him. He wanted them to be "bold, punchy and mood-enhancing" and tried to infuse a "pop-art element".

"I don't get calls every day to design spare toilet roll covers," he said. "But I believe every piece in your home, no matter how unexpected or mundane, should be fabulous."

- AP

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