The role of product innovation for an “underrated” organ

How toilet paper can and must change after the discovery of the “second brain”.


In the literary field, one of the bestselling books of the last two years is “Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ” by Giulia Enders. An international success born in a context of rediscovery of intestinal functions that is yielding a new way to consider everything that takes place on the toilet seat.


In 2006, Michael D. Gershon legitimized body functions with the publication of “The Second Brain” where he illustrated how the so-called enteric nervous system is an independent hub for neural processing capable of interacting with the central nervous system.


In such a context, perceiving the sensitive keys in consumers’ deep perception becomes an essential strategic element for market success. The Italian scenario – with its poor level of loyalty and a series of very demanding targets – is paradigmatic to illustrate winning approach modes and practices.


In Italy, product innovation is mainly focused on three axes: space, softness and added elements. The great success of rolls featuring over 300 sheets and of the 8- to 10-roll package suggests purchase habits that are all but frequent, indicating how the consumer who prefers this type of product retains duration of the supply and convenience to be the main elements for his/her buying decision. Those who prefer soft toilet paper transpire a predominant sense of aesthetics, a need for beauty that is expressed through touch but also through sight. Different is the case of those who purchase paper featuring emollients or exotic additives. These targets are presumably capable of distinguishing between natural substances and artificial or chemical ones; they are people who will be increasingly able to distinguish and assess the reliability of the product. These are generic profiles with prevalent but not isolated characteristics for each target, so it is possible to postulate consumers sensitive to products featuring natural emollients distributed in space-saving packs or having an incomparably soft texture.


If strength is today taken for granted by the markets and if the asset of sustainability is becoming increasingly diffused (already in 2011 Guy Goldstein stated that “The consumer now wants more green products from manufacturers committed to respecting the planet, products made from sustainable sources in companies where traceability is not just a word but a fact”), we must have a better understanding of what consumers want in the era of the “underrated intestine” and set up the best innovation strategies. And he also sustained “the importance of having an Research & Development strategy that encompasses not only the technical aspects of production but also the expectations transmitted by marketing”. So it is necessary to understand the discreet charm of the intestine.


We are in an epoch characterized by the quest for the deep sense of things and the relationship with our body, its re-discovery and re-appreciation are at the base of many changes taking place just about everywhere in the word. Interest for the intestine is hence born in a humus where people want to get to know one another and to some extent, have access to their primordial strengths, claiming a subjective autonomy that increasingly becomes autonomy from the constituted power (and, by extension, from companies). Those who embark on the road to getting to know themselves better do so because they feel a desire to, but not infrequently during this journey does desire turn into a true need. In this phase, purchase dynamics are certainly polarized and consumption choices have visceral roots. So we then move on to the depths of our soul and step by step arrive to discover the intestine. Other people are simply provoked by the idea of good intestinal functioning and when they undertake the journey, they can come to discover a new vision of the world that will also change their purchasing style and their relationship with the products – a journey that starts from the intestine and may (but it doesn’t always happen) reach the soul. In both cases, these targets will be more conscious, more critical, thirsty for transparency, needy of dialogue, searching for honesty. In few words, more demanding.


Another element in the intestinal awareness journeys is related to superstructures: education relegates the predilection for feces to the unconscious, modifying what toddlers retain “valuable” into something disgusting. Confined to contempt, defecating unconsciously acquires sadistic and aggressive characteristics that are symbolically explicated by connecting feces to the feeling of the attainment of success. Shaking off the superstructures to make the intestine noteworthy and “happy” and thus make ourselves happy, too. This is the journey that more and more people are undertaking in an epoch where conferences on the second brain abound.


How can we answer to these profiles using innovation policies? Every company certainly has the ideal solution but what we can suggest is the management of a motley rose of elements, among which is not only the product but also nature, corporate transparency, authenticity, essentialness, packaging, with a view that the all-determining factors are meaning, history, depth.


And let’s not forget “poophoria”, that element of post-evacuation satisfaction that is increasingly perceived as a true liberation of stress. An element to be added to our discussion in order to complete the picture of the dimensions of innovation in order to be winners with the population of the “underrated organ”.