Written By Frank M. Lin 2/20/2017 6:02 am @ Walnut Creek, California – Randomly came across this old news article. It seems like it was originally published more than 10 years ago around 2006… fantastic idea and execution. It can still be implemented in Taiwan or China, or even USA!
In the 1990 Berlin the City had an interesting auction. It was not for any objects for rather for the rights to run the public restrooms. At the time, there were not many bidders as most doesn’t think it will be a good business to get into. Running public restrooms is not likely to be a money maker if anything it could be a losing prospect.
Hans Wahl (google translate Chinese to German, could be wrong name) had ideas and promised the government that if he gets the bid he will build it all for free! He is known as King of Toilette because he spent his entire life in Toilette related business. That caused a little sensation back then because people were thinking even at a conservative estimate cost of 0.5 euro per usage, even just in the city of Berlin alone he could lose 10 million Euro per month. In addition, German law requires that:
- high density areas requires min. 1 bathroom every 500 meters.
- normal density areas requires min. 1 bathroom every 1000 meters.
- all other areas requires minimum 1 bathroom in 2-3 square km.
- on average every 500-1000 person requires min. 1 bathroom
This would suggest the cost of construction would be ginormous and people thought he was going to be bankrupt from signing this contract. Few years later, not only was Hans Wahl company not went bankrupt the company rakes in 30 million Euro annually.
It turns out Hans Wahl’s plan was never to make money from the people but rather from advertisements in the bathrooms. He had planned this from the get go. He started with the city of Berlin and according to the city’s needs based on the four laws listed above he built many public restrooms in various sizes. In order to make his toilettes more popular he tried many things, such as hiring professional designers from Japan and Italy. Every single toilettes in the city is different especially for the men. It combines elements from anime, models and helps to extend the citizen’s staying time inside the WC.
The cleaning team checks and clears 3 times a day. If there are any problems it is fixed immediately and thus ensuring high customer satisfaction. All WC’s have automatic flushing installed. All of this greatly increase the cost of initial investments on the company and it taxed the finances so much it was near bankruptcy. But Hans Wahl knew exactly what he wanted to achieve and did not cut any corners whatsoever. Soon the investments start to pay dividends. His public WC become hugely popular and many people go to use them. In fact some people go just to tour the awesome facility and he was receiving accolades from everyone. This caught the attention of many advertising agencies and they all came looking for Hans Wahl asking to rent walls and display areas from Han’s public WC’s for advertising placement.
The cost to advertise at Wall’s WC is much cheaper than the traditional outlets. After the initial advertisers reporting high effectiveness the companies renting WC wall greatly increased. And the new WC facilities still being built their advertising space become sought after. To have effective advertising campaigns famous international brands such as Chanel, Apple, Nokia… etc. all wanted to work with Hans Wall’s public toilettes. Wall’s company beat BMW and Mercedes-Benz and became the most innovative company in German and generates in excess of 10 million dollar revenue in first year.
His company continues to get creative and increased advertising space from inside the WC only to the outside wall as well. He also added public telephone service, and then work with local restaurants. You get discount coupons when you use the public restroom. These methods are nothing new but under the new advertising packaging of public restrooms it becomes highly effective.
In 2009 his public restroom company was bought by a large corporation. What a nice inspirational story. Even something as mundane as restroom can make millions, if you know get creative and understand how to do your marketing. Just brilliant.