Archive | January, 2017

How Don’s Cleaned up in Washington

14 Jan

Like most people, I had never heard of Don’s Johns until earlier this week.

Now they’re world famous, for 15 minutes at least.

The brand’s new found fame came about because of a cover up.

Better make that an attempted cover up.

For those of you not privy to the story, the facts are these.


Don’s Johns are a Virginia supplier of portable restrooms or portaloos.

They’ve been around since 1964 and provided portaloos for the 2009 and 2013 Presidential inaugurations.

Presumably they did a good job because they were contracted for the inauguration of President elect Donald John Trump.

Now anyone can understand why the transition team would not want the President elect to be associated with a sanitation service.

Which begs the question, why was the company  hired in the first place?

However bureaucracy moves in mysterious ways, and they were.

Consequently somebody made a decision to tape over the signage on each portaloo.

It probably seemed like a bright idea at the time and you can see why the decision was made.

It’s simple. It’s quick. And it solves the problem.

At least in theory.

But brands and the media don’t always function in a predictable way.

They’re not subject to immutable laws like physics or mathematics.

Remember New Coke?

Although it could be argued that what happened next was largely predictable.

Considering there’s nothing that ignites press coverage on a subject faster than a cover up, especially, a ham-fisted cover up.

And the world press jumped all over this unlikely, although some may say apt, intersection between politics and sewage.

Google “don’s johns” and you get over 414,000 results in the news category.

So the story got millions of eyeballs and the company got millions in free publicity.

Of course hindsight’s 20/20, but it’s hard to believe doing nothing would have led to a worse outcome for the transition team.

Taping over the signage was especially clumsy.

If it was my project, I would have at least got some stickers printed.

It would have been a couple of hundred bucks well spent.