...about wiping our asses with small, furry animals?
All throughout Europe, I've been collecting pictures of this motif as it seemed bizarrely prevalent-- much more so that I had ever noticed in the States*.
To be clear, it's not a random animal choice. It's no coincidence that you don't see a porcupine, razorback hog, or stegosaurus as a toilet paper brand mascot.
Overwhelmingly, we get it-- the message they are trying to convey is that the product is soft. But there are plenty of soft things out there-- silk scarves, marshmallows, velour, warm brie, etc. Why do the TP marketers feel the need to focus on soft, sentient things?
Skunks** have rather soft fur, yet would be deemed a poor 'fit' as toilet paper mascots-- I suppose because they stink, and customers might balk at an odorous undertone that suggests their own poop may also stink. Too real, maybe.
Thus sentience and softness are not the only criteria: these brands are desperate to convey purity, possibly above all else. So baby animals, then. Got it.
Puppies, bunnies, kitties-- cute as heck and with light-colored fur, because after all, you want to be able to see the 'result.' Isn't that what they're insinuating here?
Objectively, however, it would be considerably more difficult to gauge the devastation of last night's shawarma run if you were obliged to wipe with a tortoiseshell cat.
Let's look at some others..
Lidl understands the notion of escalating comfort in a TP portfolio, as evidenced in their private label toilet tissue brand Floralys.
Single-ply 'green' level is represented by a nervous squirrel, whose combination of unpredictability and scrappiness make for an adventurous, potentially 'organic' cleanup.
The 3-ply 'soft' roll features an understandably surprised sheep, who is likely to catch on after the 2nd wipe and bolt.
Lastly, the 'supersoft' 4-ply version is akin to using a pristine, down-swaddled yellow duckling-- complete with easily bindable feet, a soft beak, and a calm, trusting demeanor. The duckling's purity of soul compensates for its unfortunate lack of physical surface area.
And then we're graced with some more 'exotic' options.
Marsupials make for an excellent choice***, as their pouch conveniently serves as a built-in receptacle for the used paper. You'd expect these to be popular in Russia and other areas where flushing used TP isn't always kosher****.
Somewhat of a crooked hip-shot photo on the kangaroo wipes-- sometimes the aisles are crowded and I'm doing my best to fly under the radar. A great way to arouse suspicion in a Bulgarian supermarket: giggle and take pictures of their toilet paper.
Exotic is one thing, but endangered is quite another.
Nothing like kicking 'em when they're down. I don't think it's exploitive or anything, it's just cartooned-up versions of endangered animals trying to look friendly to hawk some toilet tissue.
They have no pertinence to the product, but they're not trying to offend, either. It's not like there's an elephant spewing snot all over your fried chicken to sell you paper towels*****.
Some brands choose to go in an entirely fictional direction, though oddly with the same young, fluffy animal archetype we've grown accustomed to.
I've got nothing against a lounging, dapperly coiffed pink cat, but the fuzzy, peanut-shaped elfy thing makes me want to grab him by the pom-pom in one hand, tail in the other, and execute the most debasing (post-deuce) towel move****** that I could manage.
In conclusion, there really is no conclusion-- just a series of linked observations. And the brands pictured above were not the only examples I found-- there were many more, and you'll certainly continue to notice them in the future. Never hurts to stop and ask 'why.'
* There are probably exceptions, but the only animal-toilet paper motif that I can think of in the States are the Charmin bears. And in that case, it is the bears who are in search of a soft TP experience-- they are not serving (primarily) as the psychological surrogate for the paper itself. Also, I think their narrative subconsciously weaves in a notion of the Goldilocks tale-- suggesting that the TP is not too hard, not too soft, but "just right."
** I wanted to include stink badgers here as well but didn't want to derail the conversation with (presumably) made-up fauna in the readers' eyes. They are more like skunks than badgers, but they do in fact exist, unlike these.
*** Make no mistake about it, a legit koala would tear someone's asshole to shreds.
**** Add Thailand (left) and Bulgaria (right) to the list.
***** You thought I was kidding.
****** The towel move. Originally, I was looking for a video or a GIF that better illustrates the move, but I didn't want Google to start hitting me with 'relevant' advertisements as a result of several consecutive queries permutating terms such as male/dancer/stripper/towel/crotch/gyration. So a picture it is.