Back in December 2022, Kohler finally launched its Numi 2.0 smart toilet to considerable fanfare. CE Pro had even covered the story, speculating how the product might fit into the smart home. Well, in Kohler’s latest advertising campaign for the product, a recreation of its famous ‘Toilet in the Road’ campaign, the company has placed the Numi 2.0 at the forefront in a move that both honors the company’s roots for its 150 year anniversary while also setting a firm statement of where it sees the future of kitchen and bath design heading.
In 1981, Kohler’s “Toilet in the Road” advertisement propelled the company to new horizons. Developed under long-time company leader Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. (1939-2022), the breakthrough ad now embodies how Kohler portrays its products as works of art, as well as its creative communications centered on THE BOLD LOOK OF KOHLER.
At the same time, the advertisement marked a moment where Kohler’s provocative marketing campaigns challenged conventional norms by targeting consumers directly in addition to the standard industry practice of engaging trade professionals and distributors.
By this point, Kohler should be no stranger to the smart home industry. The company is still new compared to dedicated industry veterans like the Crestrons and the Sonys of the space, but what it lacks in seniority within the category, it makes up for in product expertise and strategy.
This February marked the first year since Kohler joined CEDIA as part of its Propel Program with both Kohler and CEDIA citing a mutual desire to connect integrators and designers earlier in the planning process on residential projects.
As part of the partnership, Kohler also opened up its Authorized Service Rep (ASR) program for integrators in priority markets, connecting them directly to new customers through Kohler’s own network,.
The company has also leveraged its expertise in the Kitchen & Bath industry to develop its own intelligent versions of industry mainstays such as the Moxie Handshower with built-in audio or its Anthem Shower system with digital control and programmable presets akin to scenes and schedules in modern home automation installations.
This new remake of the company’s ‘Toilet in the Road’ ad puts all of that on display. Behind the scenes, however, Kohler has been reinforcing their commitment to the smart home channel through a re-release of the Numi 2.0’s announcement with a special focus on the integration potential this product has with being incorporated into modern smart homes.
A look at the company’s smart home section on its website will also show the Numi 2.0 and all of this new associated branding headlining the page.
Honoring Roots While Planting New Seeds
Photographer Douglas Friedman contributes the visuals to the remake with the newly released Numi 2.0 Honed Black smart toilet framed against an endless road. Apart from the callback to the original advertisement, the visuals also act as a clear metaphor, setting the Numi 2.0 as the only significant object on the road forward.
Kohler itself describes the reimagining of the original campaign as the representation of “a new generation by featuring the ingenuity, innovation, movement, and lighting of the Kohler Numi 2.0 Honed Black Smart Toilet.” To bust out some language I haven’t used since art school: the posing is simple and straightforward with a clearly defined statement as to where Kohler sees the future of bathroom design heading. Its behind the scenes marketing, meanwhile, shows how it plans on getting there.
Yes, I understand the humor of picking apart a toilet advert in the attempt to make it seem like some genius marketing move. The situation should warrant a bit of a laugh at my expense. However, if this is where Kohler is choosing to direct its attention and messaging at the moment, I think it gives integrators and the CI industry as a whole a lot to look forward to.
The kitchen and bathroom are important enough areas of the home for remodeling professionals to build entire business models around. These areas of the home, however, remain largely underserved and siloed within the smart home by professional integrators on projects.
This is likely a result of a lack of substantial products for integrators to offer to clients, as well as a potential lack of interoperability within greater smart home systems. However, as Kohler pushes forward with its own separate product line, branding that line specifically for smart home audiences and opening these opportunities up to distribution through the CI channel, that could be changing.
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