Hook, Line & Stinker



Now, that’s a pitch to keep you reading. You’re intrigued. How crappy can it be? Very.

Commanding attention in aid of influencing an outcome is human, not evil. It’s also the bread & butter of advertising. A great pre-head or headline is what admen may refer to as an eyebrow, hook, or trapper; all designed to pull us into the story they want us to believe in and buy.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t pooh-pooh the practice as a rule. I frequently deploy it in my business when I need to capture my client’s gaze to bring a point home or achieve a big time result. And it works.

We are exposed to approx 5,000 ads/messages every day – every claim crafted to make us believers. So, we know we’re being manipulated and we still buy it – hook, line and stinker. Why?

We’re hardwired to believe that the promises of whiter teeth, amazing sex or losing 10 pounds in 7 days are real and achievable. All we need to do is play our part and drink the kool-aid.

When a company or organization delivers on their promises of further, higher, faster, stronger, it’s awesome and we’re better for it. Our belief pays off and we’re all winners. However, this seems to be the exception and not the rule; as their empty claims leave us disbelieving and disappointed.

Thursday, 20th July. 8.45am

I had a text from Mrs. Rocket reminding me to pick up some toilet paper on my way home. No problem I thought. I’ve got this. Having procured my fair share of the stuff, I understood that my purchasing criteria came down to quality and cost; meaning soft & comfy and on sale.

And then it happened. It wasn’t planned, so I wasn’t prepared for what I did next. I stopped for a sec and paid attention.

I took notice of the 50+ varieties of 1-3-ply, double rolled, double quilted, lotioned, creamed, and scented toilet papers before me – all vying for my 20 sec attention span. The competition was fierce. Game on.

It’s now 9.05 and I still can’t make up my mind. I’m so confused. Do I want double rolled in quilted floral or double quilted with Aloe lotion?

Time was ticking. I needed to act fast, so I reached out and… hold on… what’s this? Could Cottonelle be offering me a brand new feature,  one that I had never considered needing or wanting before?

Yes! And it’s called CLEAN RIPPLE.

According to Kimberly Clark’s best & brightest (Cottonelle’s parent co.), those little ripples are “designed” to clean us better. That’s right. It’s what we’ve all been waiting for. A toilet paper specially designed… TO DO ITS JOB! Who knew?!

According to this google ad, this is the “Toilet Paper that Gets you Clean and Let’s you Go Commando.

Ok, now we’re talking. For years I’ve wanted to go commando but never felt clean enough to do it. Thank you, Cottonelle. You’re a lifesaver.

What a load of crap.

This is not an advertising problem. And it’s not a marketing problem. It’s a lack of clear leadership problem. It is the CEO’s, and not the Chief Marketing Officer’s role to build out the culture of their organization – it’s attitudes, goals, behaviors, and values. And that these values are the north star for guiding everything the company does, promotes and stands for. When they don’t, it’s this kinda poop that gets peddled as a “competitive advantage”. It’s not, and is nothing more than another hook designed to reel us into believing that Cottonelle’s Clean Ripple is better than Charmin, Angel Soft or one of the other leading brands who together sell us 7 billion rolls in the US every year.

Here’s the bottom line: Competition is sometimes fierce. Margins get tight. And getting to number one is easier than staying there. But it’s the leaders who lead by keeping human/values-centric that create enduring results for their organizations and the world.

How are you leading your organization forward?

Driven by image, or
driven by improved reality?

Focused on the competition, or
charting your own course?

Exaggerating trivial differences, or
revealing significant differences?

Making claims supported by contrived evidence, or
establishes differences in believable ways?

Hiding realities at odds with your projected image, or
exposing realities at odds with your aspirations, then fixing your reality?

Applying style/spin, or
integrating values-centric design?

Straining credibility, or
building trust?

— — —

Keeping in the bold is tough. It takes more courage, cash, time and graft than many leaders are willing to invest. Find a way to make it happen and you will win our attention, belief, and trust. Oh, and you will *clean up big time!

*Ripples not required.


  • I was getting worried when you challenged my love of the clean ripples, but I LOVED all the comparisons that immediately followed. As you say, it is much easier to get to number one than it is to stay there, and building on people-centric values and fact-based trust is a sure fire way to outlast the competition! Another brilliant installment from Rocketman!

    • Thanks so much Mr. Scott. I’m a fan a good toilet tissue and Cottonelle makes a quality product. I just don’t believe the lie that the ripple was “DESIGNED” to clean better. Check out the small print. The claim is based on the following: “per sheet vs. leading US value brand one-ply tissue”. OF COURSE, IT CLEANS BETTER THAN ONE PLY TISSUE! That’s not a surprise and does not prove their claim that the ripple was designed to clean better. And it’s also a fact that it’s “better” than corn cobs and leaves. However, a fact is not the same as a truth. And it’s down to the top brass to ensure their companies stay true to their values.

  • Rocketman
    You had me and then I realized just how right u are. Sell, Sell, Sell.
    Do we really believe the hype, the lies?
    I can honestly say, Nope!
    Is it going to make me more beautiful, sexy, younger. Not really. I am who I am. How do you like that One! (I sound like Popeye the Sailorman) lol
    Trust, belief are things earned. Which for some reason the marketing industry doesn’t fully understand.
    The Ripple Effect or going Commando in a British accent is going to change how clean I really am is really funny.

    • Dianne, You’re a star. I thank you for your honesty. I’m not anti-ads, marketing or selling. I’m against the willful use of half-baked truths and B.S. to promote a promise that we can’t deliver. Make/sell the best product possible, do good and be fair. These principals still deliver the best long term results. And, it’s not the marketing industry but the leaders of these companies that we should hold accountable for the messages their marketing dept/agency produce.

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