Charmin tests ‘BRB Bot’ for bathroom breaks on video calls

Dive Brief:

  • Procter & Gamble’s Charmin brand of toilet paper this week unveiled the pilot of a technology that lets people swap the live feed in a video call with an automated version of themselves. The BRB Bot by Charmin aims to help people discreetly take a bathroom break during video calls, per an announcement.
  • P&G doesn’t have any plans to release the BRB Bot, which asks users to spend three minutes pre-recording their reactions to conversations. The prompts include “pretend someone just said something interesting,” “lean in to listen better” and “pretend to laugh,” CNet reported, citing a video demonstration of the BRB Bot.
  • The BRB Bot uses artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as machine learning, natural language processing and tone analysis to listen to video calls and show an appropriate reaction in real time. P&G enlisted comedian Niecy Nash and NFL player JuJu Smith-Schuster to demonstrate the BRB Bot in a virtual press conference.

Dive Insight:

While Charmin doesn’t plan to release the BRB Bot, the toilet paper brand can at least raise awareness as people share demonstrations of the technology with their friends and followers on social media. The BRB Bot is a humorous concept that is likely to resonate with the millions of people who have spent hours on Zoom or other video calling platforms during the pandemic. Video calls have been a rich source of memes and news reports about embarrassing incidents such as people accidentally filming themselves while going to the bathroom.

Charmin’s video to introduce the BRB Bot mocks the sincerity of scientists doing serious research, and is consistent with the brand’s humorous efforts to exalt low-tech products like toilet paper with wacky inventions from the Charmin GoLab. During last year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Charmin poked fun at the event’s needless gadgetry with demonstrations of three concept technologies. Those included the RollBot, a two-wheeled device to deliver toilet paper with smartphone commands; the SmellSense, a sensor to warn people of bathroom odors; and the V.I.Pee, a portable restroom equipped with a virtual reality headset.

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More recently, Charmin was among the first consumer brands to get on board with the buzz around nonfungible tokens (NFTs), which are a form of cryptocurrency that can be bought and sold as collectors’ items. The brand last month auctioned several original digital artworks inspired by toilet paper and donated the proceeds. The NFT auction helped to generate online chatter for Charmin and insert its brand into conversations among younger consumers.

With P&G seeing e-commerce growth of 50% in the past year as people shopped online more often, connecting with consumers through digital platforms is a bigger priority for the packaged goods giant. The company in September will raise prices on baby care, feminine care and adult diapers to cope with higher costs of raw materials, expecting that consumer demand for its brands will continue to be strong as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

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