During a recent stay at a hotel I noticed that the spare roll of toilet paper in the bathroom was an institutional brand called Subtle Touch. It made me think of the challenges involved in naming toilet paper.
Toilet paper, of course, has a crucial hygienic purpose that involves a tender area. The name should indicate that it can get that important job done, but with an appropriate nod toward comfort. Equally important, the name should suggest that duality without straying too far in one direction or the other.
Consider Lava hand cleaner, for example. The ’60s commercial for Lava featured a square-fingered man’s hand stained with God knows what — grease? oil? the entrails of animals? — being washed with the product, which was made with pumice. The man’s hands came out clean and as pink as a monkey’s butt, but the ad probably scared off most people in the hand soap market. Lava might appeal to car mechanics and slaughterhouse workers who wanted to be spic and span for the dinner table, but having our skin abraded by stone dust whenever we lathered up was too much for the rest of us.
I’m not sure Subtle Touch really hits the proper mark on the toilet paper-naming spectrum. Who wants subtlety, given the essential function of toilet paper? Other potential toilet paper names that would stray too far toward the comfort end of the spectrum: Angel’s Breath, Seaside Breeze, and Wispy Wonder. On the other hand, I doubt that many people would be tempted to buy toilet paper called Scour Power!, Scrubbington’s, or Rump Blaster.
There’s a delicate balance to be struck. Come to think of it, Delicate Balance would be a pretty good name for this very special product.