CommsCon: How Who Gives a Crap’s reimagination of a classic children’s book paid off

B Corp toilet paper company Who Gives a Crap has gotten comfortable with taking risks, showcased in the success it achieved when it took a very bold move in updating a piece of classic literature to raise awareness of environmental changes.

Speaking in front of a packed room at Mumbrella CommsCon on Wednesday morning, Who Gives a Crap’s brand marketing director, Kat Kearney, was joined on stage by Kiefer Casamore, general manager at the brand’s PR agency of record, Eleven and Sustain by TBWA, to discuss the reimagining of an iconic children’s book, Winnie-The-Pooh, the ‘Deforested Edition’.

Kearney and Casamore on stage at CommsCon

The original story by A. A. Milne was supported by new illustrations that represent the impact of deforestation around the globe – and the land cleared every day to make traditional toilet paper. Where lush trees, home to Winnie-The-Pooh’s furry friends, once stood, the illustrations showed fallen trees and tree stumps instead.

Kearney said the idea came from debates happening on whether brands should take “woke stances” or not – and the Who Gives a Crap team thought it’d be fascinating to do just that, in a creative way.

“We started exploring the idea, and thought it’s be cool to take a piece of classic literature to reflect the climate crisi,” she said.

“Traditional toilet paper companies are cutting down one million trees every single day, so we needed to figure out how to make this story heard in a really creative, impactful way.”

Casamore said the first big hurdle the team had to get across was intellectual property and trademark laws – which differed across the world.

“The UK set of laws was very different to America, and Australia, and so forth,” he told the crowd.

“So we strapped in and went deeper in investigating, and like any good agency, we built our risk mitigation strategy, all of the context and rationale as to why we think this idea is amazing, and showed how this risk would pay off.”

He said Who Gives a Crap’s appetite for risk was apparent from the get go, and the ambition kept building during the ideation process.

Kearney thanked Casamore for Eleven’s efforts in working around the laws, as that was something her team “struggled to do”.

When the agency presented the idea – in a single image – to Who Gives a Crap, she said it “was so clear”.

“It had that emotional gut punch, but in a good way, and so I had all the giddy feelings and that energy really carried us through the project.”

The campaign was commercially effective, according to Casamore. With no paid media support, the tale of destruction resonated deeply as the story spread across the globe. Within 48 hours, the reworked book sold out in the US, and globally, it was making major news headlines.

“It exceeded all the objectives that had been set out,” he explained. “But more importantly, the momentum and the culture that it created was contagious.”

“Creative risk taking is something all brands wish to successfully achieve – it takes hold of organisations, it really excites teams,” he concluded.


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