guts logo | Brand Strategy Agency
3rd June 2024
Marketers Changing the World: Danny Alexander, Chief Purpose Officer and Co-Founder, Who Gives a Crap
Written by:
Kara Sullivan

We’re devoted fans of this gutsy, world changing brand. With the humble loo roll as the vehicle, Who Gives a Crap has created a symbol of sustainability for any respectable bathroom. It’s more than purpose-driven branding, their toilet paper has become a sustainable status symbol, and the creativity and brand strategy in their campaigns is next level.

And with every wipe, those with access to a toilet are reminded we can help un-crap the world, with 50% of profits building toilets in communities without sanitation services. In 14 years they have sold over 300 million rolls to customers in 36 countries and donated $13 million to charity partners.

We were lucky to have caught up with Danny Alexander, Chief Purpose Officer and Co-Founder of Who Gives a Crap, to find out the source of limitless poo puns and how they’ve built such a loveable brand.

Danny Alexander, Chief Purpose Officer and Co-Founder of Who Gives a Crap

1.  You’ve defied category conventions and disrupted bathrooms globally. How did you build such a successful brand around something that is essentially a commodity?

I think the fact that it was a commodity is part of the reason we’ve been successful. Toilet paper is a product that virtually everyone uses, but the category is incredibly boring. We’ve tried to bring humour and delight to it, and to celebrate the fact that it’s such a ridiculous business to be in!

2.  What’s your biggest challenge in your role as Chief of Purpose? How would you explain the value of purpose to a sceptical exec?

When it comes to purpose, I think the biggest challenge is to figure out how to keep our team connected to it every single day. Like every business, we experience our fair share of ups and downs. When the times are tough, it’s the impact we have that keeps me, and many others, motivated. I’ve seen the impact of our work first-hand, so it’s easy for me to connect my hard work to the impact on someone receiving access to clean water in their home for the first time, but as our team grows it’s hard to scale that connection and understanding of our impact. We’re always working on it, but it’s something I think will be critical for us to maintain our purpose-driven culture as we grow.

As for explaining our purpose to a sceptical exec, I wouldn’t bother. We look for people who bring passion for purpose and are excited to help us have more impact. And if others outside are sceptical I’m OK with that—the proof is in our growth!

3.  Tell us about your brand strategy to build and commercialise the brand with loo roll at its centre. What’s on-brand and off-brand for Who Gives a Crap? How do you maintain the brand’s lively essence?

Loo roll is at the centre of our business today, but we’ve also launched other paper products like kitchen towels and tissues, and we’re launching new products in the coming months and years. Although we lean into some potty humour, we also stay clear of going too icky—it’s just not our style.

As for how we keep the brand’s essence, it used to be just a few of us writing and designing what felt fun to us personally. As we’ve grown we’ve built an incredible team who have codified our brand strategy and guidelines and ensure that everything we do is delivering delight. Our brand’s purpose is to make it fun to do good, so that’s the benchmark we always hold ourselves to!

Co-founder Simon Griffiths sat on a toilet in the Who Gives a Crap warehouse refusing to move until they raised enough pre-orders to start production. After 50 hours they raised over $50,000; Campaign where customers could get their cheeks featured on billboards in London, Sydney or Melbourne

4.  What’s a brand you most admire and why?

An Aussie brand I love is MilkRun. As they grew they took some amazing risks with their marketing and were so smart in how they connected with their customers. They sold to Woolies a while back so I’m not sure what's happening with their brand now, but their early stuff was gold!

5.  Describe the vibe of the Who Gives a Crap Christmas party in three words?

Ridiculous. Thoughtful. Global.

6.  Has there been any ideas too wacky for Who Gives a Crap?

I can’t think of any that we’ve said no to just because they were too wacky. In fact we’re trying to dial up the wackiness these days to continue delivering delight to our customers. We recently launched a billboard campaign that had no words or logos on it—just pictures of animal butts and fruits that look like butts with a QR code pointing to I’d say that was a pretty wacky idea, but it’s been a lot of fun to see come to life!

7.  Any spectacular flops or fails you can share? Our audience love these 😊

So many. My favorite was the time—many years ago—when we accidentally misprinted several thousand boxes of toilet paper. I forget what the exact problem was, but it was essentially unsellable, and most CPG companies would’ve written it off or sent it back to the factory to fully repackage. We took the opposite approach and slapped a giant sticker on the box explaining our mistake, threw a whoopie cushion in the top, and called it the Whoops! Edition. We ran a whole campaign about failures and it was a hit—our customers have always been so forgiving and respond really well when we f*ck up!

8.  Have there been any collabs or partnerships you’ve said no to based on values misalignment?

Yes and no. We’re really careful about who we work with, as you might imagine, but we’re also pragmatic about our impact and recognize that if the net benefit of a certain partnership is positive, we’re open to it. So while we wouldn’t launch a creative collaboration with a fossil fuel company, for example, we do sell on Amazon overseas and advertise with Meta, both of which aren’t obvious brand alignments. Ultimately, though we see that we’ll have a net positive impact on the planet and people by working with them.

Valentines Day campaign: turning old love letters into toilet paper

9.  If budget was no issue and you could afford any brand ambassador for Who Gives a Crap dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

The first person that popped in my head was Tina Fey—she just feels like she’d be a great personification of our brand tone of voice.

10.  As a disruptive brand, how do you inspire and encourage your teams to live and breathe your brand purpose?

Everything we do, we try to connect back to our purpose. We have a 30 year internal goal, which is to ensure everyone on earth has access to clean water and sanitation by the year 2050. We call this our Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and all of our planning in some way ladders up to this, which keeps us thinking big and chasing wild ideas. In the day-to-day, though, we have a set of values internally, the first of which is Give A Crap, and we celebrate people and decisions that uphold this value.

11.  What’s next for Who Gives a Crap?

We started as a Direct To Customer business, but we always knew that some people would never want to buy toilet paper online. We launched in a few retailers lastly (notably Aldi and Woolies) and growing our retail presence is a big part of our focus this coming year. I’m looking forward to seeing how we continue to connect with our customers even when we can only do it on the store shelf. We’ll also be launching new products and new markets and, of course, trying to write more puns than we’ve ever written before!

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Guts Creative acknowledges the awesome culture and creativity of the traditional custodians of the Country where we work: Awabakal Nation and Worimi Nation. We walk humbly in their footsteps, support the protection of their invaluable knowledge, and are inspired to do better by Elders past and present.
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