397: Mr. Whipple saw it — Our desires, and our future, are all in our hands …

Mr. Whipple saw the future — years ago!
    Remember him? He was the lovable old grouch — a character in TV commercials who actually ranked as the third best-known American in 1978 after President Nixon and Billy Graham. Here’s how he sprang to life: In the mid 1970s, Procter and Gamble had reached a break-through in toilet paper technology, a paper so soft that it wiped away the competition. But they had to make Americans aware of that market-changing difference in a package of Charmin. Mr. Whipple was the answer.
    At the time, the Mr. Whipple commercials echoed far and wide! One research study ranked this overall ad campaign among the most memorable of that era. Millions of us instantly recalled the ads: Grocery store customers picked up Charmin packages — and squeezed them just to enjoy the softness. Mr. Whipple was the fussy clerk who always rushed in, shouting: “Please, don’t squeeze the Charmin!!”
    Then, when no one was looking — yeah, that same ol’ Mr. Whipple would sneak a squeeze or two himself.
    Here’s what Mr. Whipple instinctively understood — and it took us decades of technological advances to finally provide:


    That’s where the future of media is moving — toward hand-held devices. Now, rest assured: Among those “hand-held devices” will be millions of copies of actual paper-and-ink books. The technology of a book still is extremely simple, mobile and communal (many of us love to loan or give books to friends). Books will survive around the world.
    But, very rapidly, a huge portion of media is moving toward Kindles, iPhones and other hand-held devices.
    We’ve been writing stories about this for a long time, including a series in February about the Tools of Change movement, but today we’re turning to Charmin to make the point that — once again — Charmin is involved in the next step of this hand-held marketing. If you haven’t heard the buzz over the last few days, Charmin is making a big push for its latest promotional program: Sit or Squat.



    Among the deepest spiritual questions of our age is: “How can I make it through another stressful day?” So, we rank Charmin’s latest iPhone promotion as truly spiritual. No kidding. (Well, maybe just a little bit of kidding — but this is truly a cool experiment in media.)
    Sit or Squat uses the iPhone’s automatic awareness of your location to help you find a public bathroom. What’s more — the Web-and-iPhone application invites ordinary folks to rate good, bad and ugly restrooms. Here’s the online site. You can get to the iPhone app from that page — or, in the App Store, search for SitOrSquat.
    Sound silly? Hardly. This is a big challenge for millions of people whose daily schedule takes them into cities — where you’ll find lots of bathroom locations listed in this new application. It’s often an even bigger challenge in suburban areas, where you might be spending the day attending an event, calling on clients, shopping or jogging.
    Sure, you can swing by a coffee shop or restaurant and make a bathroom stop while you’re ordering something. But think about it: Parents with young children? Millions of Americans with more frequent needs for a restroom? How about the reassurance that you can find a clean changing table for your infant? Or, insurance that you’ll avoid a sewer pit of a restroom?
    That’s what Sit or Squat “does.”
    It’s a terrific idea, which is why Charmin is sponsoring it.
    And here’s what’s so cool about this: At first glance, it’s NOT Charmin’s core business. Charmin doesn’t market business-scale restroom products. Charmin is doing this largely for the good-will advertising of its products — making us aware that it wants to be our friendly partner in daily comfort. That’s actually the value that Charmin sells, right? And that IS Charmin’s core business: daily comfort.
    Now, you have to admit — there’s at least a spiritual glimmer in this idea.


    Here’s another iPhone app that I tap at least once a day. Why is it spiritual?
    Well, we regularly recommend great TV shows — and, soon, we’re going to tell you about some wonderful National Geographic Channel documentaries coming up for Easter.
    In our crazy lives, how easily can we remember the exact times and dates and shows available on some of the cable TV channels with smaller audiences, like Hallmark and National Geographic and others? It’s so easy to miss great stuff in the higher-numbered channels.
    There are various apps that provide this information. I’m aware that a lot of people prefer “i.TV” — which ranks highly among iPhone users. But, for me, i.TV tries to do too much. There are too many features that don’t relate to my central question: “What’s on?”
    I like the simplicity of this app: It’s called What’s on? and it’s produced by the team at Napkin Studio.
    You enter your home cable TV provider once in the set-up phase. Then, anytime you check it, within seconds, you quickly scan what’s on all your cable TV channels — and you can find the next showing and your local channel number for that National Geographic documentary you read about at ReadTheSpirit.
    Very simple idea. It’s now a mainstay in my life — because it’s right there in my hand.


    Among the most popular themes on ReadTheSpirit are East-West connections. Take a look at our weekly Spiritual Seasons column by Stephanie Fenton and you’ll find, week after week, we make a point of including at least a sample of Asian observances. We also publish stories on these themes. We know that we are serving an important segment of our readers.
    On a daily basis now, I read at least a third of my news reports on my iPhone. (I subscribe to three home-delivered newspapers, plus I read other news sources online and on my Kindle — but my iPhone is gaining rapidly as a news source.)
    My attention to iPhone news continues to grow because of applications like IndiaNews and IndiaNewsPlus. I finally upgraded to the $1.99 “Plus” version because I wanted all the features — but check out the free version, which may be enough for you.
    The application lets me select a broad array of Indian newspapers, then downloads headlines and stories onto my phone. It’s a terrific way to keep up with this vitally important part of the world.
    At the moment, I’m subscribing to The Hindu, The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, Reuters India, The Statesman, The Bombay News, among others.
    As I’m checking daily news sources, I tap the India News Plus app — and headlines spring onto my screen. I flick through the list to see if there’s anything urgent. Usually, I pick one or two to read. I try to balance the publications I’m reading, over time, so I might read the same story from a couple of perspectives.

    Yes, Mr. Whipple — bless his soul — had it right.
    Our desires — and our future — are in our hands.

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SUGGEST an iPhone “app” that helps you make it through your day — or opens a window into the larger world for you …

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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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