Cottonelle on Crack

Coco Chanel used to say that before leaving your house, you should check yourself in a mirror and remove at least one accessory from your ensemble. That's part of the reason she became a style icon: She knew when too much was enough. Not so for Kimberly Clark/Cottonelle in their new (largest) non-traditional advertising campaign EVER...

Hat tip to Adrants, whose initial coverage led to tear jerking laughter for me and my family. Since then, in an attempt to be fair, I've done a little more research. I can't help but come away with the opinion that this is one of the most over accessorized campaigns I've ever seen!

Up front, it sounded like a clever idea for the puppy-advertising brand. As summarized the concept is something like this ...

"Life's rough on your bottom. Be kind to your behind with Cottonelle."

Not bad, right? The schtick -- Make your own pledge to be kind to your behind in exchange for a chance to win a luxury give away. We'll also give you free coupons!

Cute. Lots of advertising potential! But then they began to accessorize...

First (and the most understandable move, in my opinion), they merged the idea with their "adorable mascot" the infamous Cottonelle puppy. I understand - continuity.

The thing is, they made the mascot into a spokespuppy. Note the freakish new voice, which they're using on the new commercials and on the web site.

This is where Coco begins to twitch. At least they don't make his mouth animate when he talks! (Shudder)

Then they added more stuff: On the web site, where you can create your own pledge and enter to win... they've got totally unrelated bells and whistles that don't really boost the experience at all. In fact, some are totally disconnected from it. .

For example, you canattach a garish, nearly illegible cartoon to your pledge. It appears they are drawn on toilet paper. Many show people sitting on toilets. I wonder how much they paid for this crap? (Pun intentional) Here's an example courtesy of the website...

Incidentally, I have a friend with a sleeping disorder that had a similar incident in college. She missed her finals and it took four hours to get the sensaton back in her legs

Then there's the outdoor advertising component. Does anyone else feel this gets lost in context? They bought a wrap in the subway.... but to really make a statement, why not outfit some of those hard seats with cushions - or brand some restroom space and make them cleaner, more comfortable...and graced with Cottonelle? That's what Charmin did in Times Square. This is entirely forgettable.

Then, my favorite accessory: The mobile component. Nope. Sorry. It's not mobile as in wireless - as in the ability to find any restroom within 1000 feet of your phone, compliments of Cottonelle.... It's mobile as in motor vehicle! Meet Cottonelle's "Comfort Haven Bus."

According to Ad Rants, the bus will engage in a cross-country tour stopping at locations across the United States: "The bus will offer visitors access to "relaxation stations" where people can see first-hand -- and hopefully in privacy -- how soft and comforting Cottonelle can be."

Somehow, "Come poop in our bus" just seems a little far fetched to me (pun intended). But it it gets even worse, folks. The bus has fur!

Come poop in our PUPPY bus? Okay, now you vote: which of the following does the Comfort Haven Bus most resemble?

Lest, I digress, they're not done, they've also added an on-board fitness trainer who will give people who sit down a lot some helpful advice to “loose the caboose.”

AND... just to show you they're not done accessorizing, they retained Judith Greer from ABC's "Miss Guided" as a kickoff celebrity. Now, I like her. She's funny, but what she has to do with toilet paper escapes me.

All this to say, this whole campaign is just, well -- OVER ACCESSORIZED. Sometimes, we just need to know when enough is enough. Otherwise, we find ourselves on - or over - the edge of ridiculous.

Experience Files: Bank of America

Over my professional and personal lifetime, I have probably posessed or worked with about all the major credit card companies. One of my favorite cards was my Platinum MBNA Visa. Until, that is, they were acquired by Bank of America.

After 18 years with my MBNA, I was concerned that the great service I'd experienced with would be interrupted by the Bank of America acquisition. I was eloquently assured by my Platinum rep that they'd keep providing the same stellar customer experience I'd had in the past.

After five rounds with Bank of America, this has proven to be a lie.


Back in October of 2006, I was planning my wedding. At the time, I had an *ample* credit limit, and charged up to about 80% of my available credit for things like photographers and other expenses. During that time, I was busy getting married and selling my house – and I goofed and my check was misdirected to the wrong account.

I spent time on the phone correcting the issue, which was a hassle. It took a few weeks to fix things (and late fees, etc.), but they assured me it would have no impact in the future. I had had one late payment that year (it missed by 2 days!) so I breathed a sigh of relief.


After selling my house, I paid down the MBNA/Bank of America card down to less than 45% of my credit limit. I had done this before and maintained an ample credit limit with MBNA with no problem. It was a comfort to know I could access this line of credit any time for trips, business expenses and travel.

Well - Bank of America's response to my large payment was an unexpected reduction in my credit limit to less than half the original limit! I didn’t get it! Nothing in my credit profile had changed, outside of the fact that I’d paid off my mortgage!

As a result of this move, my “paid down” balance was about the same as my available credit. Thus, instead of raising my credit score because I'd paid down the card significantly – Bank of America's move actually worked to lower my credit score.

This was a nice reward for 18 years of customer loyalty, for a really solid track record of payments! When I called to complain, the representative agreed to raise my limit again - not quite as high as my previously ample limit, but placing me at 60% available credit to debt ratio. It wasn't enough to repair my credit rating and the sour taste in my mouth lingered.


Just a few months later, I paid the card down another 50%. My happiness over becoming more debt free was dampened by Bank of America's response. They immediately lowered the credit limit, AGAIN.

Now – I’m no expert, but I had the same income. I did get married – thus combining and increasing our annual incomes. However, we both had great credit ratings… so I was confused that they now viewed me as some kind of credit risk. It was weird, but I didn’t call because I planned to pay it off completely and rid myself of the card and Bank of America.


Keeping my cash is always a temptation. I rationalized keeping the card because it I had a very small balance at a low interest rate. I went online and set up a recurring payment in my online bank to make sure the card would be paid monthly.

Unfortunately, three weeks later, I found out that my recurring payment never went through. After hours and days of research, I found out that the day I set it up, my bank's service provider did a system upgrade - and there was obviously some kind of technical problem that impacted my recurring payment setup.

Bank of America responded by jacking my interest rate to 32.99% and assigning a $45 late fee to my account. I called to advise them of the situation. They unapologetically told me I needed a letter to reverse the rate increase and charges, and all but scolded me for 3 late payments in a one-year period. (Remember my history here – one late payment by 2 days… one account # misallocation, and my bank error). I immediately paid off the card to avoid paying the crazy interest.

Determined to get reimbursed for the interest and late fees that accrued as a result of my bank’s error, I spent time on the phone fighting to get a letter proving the error was not my fault. I did this while preparing to deliver our first child. Pleasant. Not!


After the birth of our son, the letter from my bank arrived, and I called Bank of America and offered to fax it to them. The representative stated that they didn’t need to see the letter (!!??). I was so glad I'd gone through the hassle.

Then she said she’d reverse the interest charges and remove the late fee assessed - but stressed that they "could not" return my interest rate to the previously low rate I had. I was appalled.

After protesting, she offered to reduce it to 24.99%. I laughed out loud. The representative went on to inform me in a very STERILE manner, that they were allowed to jack up my rate because I had been late three times within the allocated period. I asked her to review my account history, which would show that only ONE late payment was actually my fault.

She responded by saying something very close to this: "I realize your last late payment was due to a bank error, but the error is still not our fault and we have no lower rate to offer you at this time." She was like a parrot who’d memorized a script.

The easy translation was this: "We're seizing this opportunity to jack your rate because we can. We realize you have been a loyal, interest paying customer since 1991, but frankly, we don't want your business, and we don’t care about you as a customer."

Well - I laughed in disbelief and closed the account immediately, asking the representative to snail-mail me the refund. She agreed in an equally sterile manner. She expressed no regret, and no appeal for my business. Nuthin!


In the end, Bank of America lost a very loyal, 18-year customer without giving so much as a sideways glance. POOF. gone. And never to return, I may add.

As the recipient of such treatment, I MIGHT have felt like some kind of credit loser… being rejected by a bank. I MIGHT have been upset by their rejection…

Thankfully, I know better!

As I thought through this article, I realized how important it is to pay attention to all those “worth” attachments. Money is personal and valuable. Banking an entirely PERSONAL thing… so when the bank screws up the experience it can be intensely personal. I guess that's why I wouldn't ever be a brand evangelist for Bank of America. Ever.

This is something Bank of America (and all the rest) should remember as they place profits over people … especially with the coming economic storm.

When I hear Bank of America's slogan ("Bank of Opportunity") that they need to revise it to "Bank of Opportunists". I believe, no matter how BIG they are that in the long-run, they will lose by doing business like this.




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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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