“Tempted by the fruit of another. Tempted but the truth is discovered. What’s been going on now that you’ve been gone.” Tempted, music and lyrics by Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Dilford, performed by Squeeze
What’s been going on since this advertising legend left us is practically a national disgrace. Desperate shoppers from coast to coast have been hoarding Charmin and every other brand of toilet paper known to mankind—even Euro-grade single ply. There’s no shortage of supply. Just raging demand provoked by FORO—fear of running out in the age of shelter in place. Five weeks into Covid-19 quarantine, the paper goods aisles remain barren. And as many of us come to the ends of our last rolls, there’s no end in sight to the toilet paper panic of 2020.
Would this have happened if George Whipple had been on the job? Mr. Whipple, (pictured above), is of course the fictional supermarket manager who admonished shoppers with one of the most successful ad slogans of all time: “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.” Played by veteran character actor Dick Wilson, Mr. Whipple appeared in over 500 Charmin commercials. In each one, he confronted someone who simply could not resist prodding, groping, and crushing the “squeezably soft” Charmin brand. Mr. Whipple was dedicated and vigilant, like a toilet paper Inspector Javert. He was also a bit of a hypocrite. Most Charmin commercials ended with someone catching Whipple in squeezit delecti—proving that not even Mr. Whipple could resist the squeezably soft charm of Charmin.
From a trademark perspective, both the character of George Whipple and his signature slogan “Please Don’t Squeeze The Charmin” would qualify for trademark protection. Indeed, any word, symbol, or “device” can be the subject of a federal trademark registration, so long as it is used on or in connection with a product or service or on displays associated with them. So a cardboard cut out of Mr. Whipple next to a stack of Charmin would conceivably have qualified. Sadly, Charmin’s maker never obtained a trademark registration for old George Whipple. But trademark rights can exist even if a mark or symbol is never registered. That’s because trademark rights flow from using a mark or symbol on goods in commerce, not from registration. Federal registration confers many substantive and evidentiary benefits. Even so, use not registration is the fundamental prerequisite to generating and maintaining trademark rights.
Enough tutorial detour. Back to our current community crisis, the epic run on toilet paper that’s making everyone paranoid about contracting well, er, the runs. We can only imagine WWMWD (What would Mr. Whipple Do) in the time of Corona. He would be patrolling the paper goods aisle with his watchful eye and acid stare. And, as surely as a virus can mutate, Mr. Whipple would surely be adapting his trademark slogan to our current crisis. He’s be scolding rabid shoppers to “Please don’t hoard the Charmin.” And true to his ingrained hypocrisy, Mr. Whipple would likely be loading up a pallet of toilet paper into his minivan to hoard it at home.
Quote of the day: “The worst job in the whole world must be recycling toilet paper.” Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club