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What Is Circular Reasoning?

Advertisers have been using Circular Reasoning to sell products almost forever.  Yet people are not totally aware of it or how it works.

Advocates would say it helps give a mental picture to an undefinable quality, like softness, smoothness, or strength.  Opponents would counter with “yes, but the connection between the reasoning and the exact truth is not provable.

Like a metaphor…strong as a Redwood, she has a heart of gold, or slimy as an eel.  I get a kick when I read a writer who derides cirircular reason as “just so much bull****!”.  Do they know what they’re saying?

Anyway, in writing this piece my intent is to educate (as always) and entertain.  It’s Copywriting 301 on the lighter side.

Charmin is the largest selling toilet tissue in the U.S. with 86,270,000 users according to Statista.

So, the fact that I’m writing this little “exposé” of this revered Proctor & Gamble product, shows I can’t be bought off.  Not even for a 30-pack of Charmin Ultra.  I have my principles, by golly.

That said…here we go.

Mr Whipple

From 1964 to 1985 Charmin ran a hugely successful campaign that catapulted Charmin into the top echelon of bathroom tissue brands in the U.S.

The mainstay of the campaign centered around Mr. Whipple (played by Dick Wilson in over 500 TV spots) who admonished shoppers, “Please…don’t squeeze the Charmin”.  But seconds later, he couldn’t resist squeezing it himself. All this to prove to everyone that Charmin is “Squeezably Soft”.  []

And it worked like a charm in popularizing Whipple’s tagline with the popular lingo of the time,  .  You’d hear in High Schools, and my mother’s canasta games.  It was everywhere.

Charmin built it's brand with Circular Reasoning

But Why Was Charmin So “Squeezably Soft”?

So finally, we come to the exposé.

When consumers went to their local markets to pick up Charmin (and they went in droves) virtually everyone stopped to squeeze the Charmin.  And, lo and behold…

it was softer.

Okay, Now We’ve Got To Go Technical. 

A roll of bathroom tissue consists of a cardboard tube around which is wrapped hundreds of sheets (generally two plies thick) of tissue.  Pretty standard for consumer products in those days.

Then, Charmin’s ad gurus got a bright idea.  Let’s re-engineer the cardboard tube, making it thinner, with less cardboard, and thus…not as rigid.

Bingo!  When the buyers were squeezing a package Charmin in the store, the new cardboard tube gave way more easily than did the old, more rigid tube, giving the impression that Charmin was, indeed, softer.

A phenomenally successful ad campaign based on Circular Reasoning.  If the package was softer when squeezed, ergo, the tissue inside must be softer. 

Not necessarily true.

And Today

Proctor & Gamble is still selling Charmin by the boatload as “soft and strong”.  Not bad for a cast-off brand of paper towels P&G bought in 1957 and renamed “Bounty” in 1964 about the time Charmin morphed into TP.

What a world.

Life is funny.

Not “ha-ha” funny, more like ironic funny. In my life (so far) I’ve been awarded three non-sports awards tied to marketing and copywriting.  One by the state of Arizona, another by a Charity, and the third by Nassau County (NY) Office of Consumer Affairs.

The irony is this – the smallest, oldest, least prestigious award is the one of which I’m proudest, because it was really won by the talent and creativity of my students.

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

It was a class in Marketing and Advertising.

After my lessons and reading, students were broken up into four “Creative Teams”.  Their task was formidable.

  • Design a product for the mass market.
  • Differentiate your product from any competition.
  • Create a Name, Unique Selling Proposition, and Tagline.
  • Create one Print Ad, one radio spot, and one TV spot for your product.

What came out of the fertile minds of these 17 – 18 year-olds astounded me.

It Astounded Others As Well

As the ads were being finished up, I heard – through the grapevine – that the County was sponsoring a contest for marketing students in high schools and community colleges.

After discussing this with my students, they were so excited to participate, they agreed to work through spring break.  And work they did.  By contest deadline time all four teams presented their products and – as it was impossible to choose between them – they agreed to enter as a single, combined team.

So – get on with it – what did the products look like?

No Jetsons’ “Briefcase Planes” or “Levitation Pods”

Here are the two ads I remember most vividly.  Remember, their products had to have mass market appeal.

One brought us a new chewing gum brand. 

  • It was unique in the double-sized length of a stick of gum.
  • The tagline was “The Gum For Lovers”.
  • The differentiating aspect was in the advertising. A boy and a girl could start chewing from either end, then meet in the middle for a kiss.
  • They named it “2 To A Chew”. Great cadence and a rhyme.
  • The team even created their own jingle “Girls start of Pink, Boys start on Blue, Try Chewing Our Gum, New 2 To A Chew.

My replica of their handmade print/poster ad.

Double-Edged Blade – Circular Reasoning

Another team “floated” a new razor blade as their product.

While not a “new” product, nor truly differentiating itself from others by it’s make-up, this team chose to differentiate by their marketing claims.

  • Slip’ry Smooth – “The Blades That Float On Water.” (tagline)
  • “If they can float on water, think about how smooth they’ll feel on your face.”
  • To demonstrate and “prove” their claim, their TV spot showed their blade being placed in a bowl of water. “It Floats”.
  • The Circular Reasoning employed in their ad, was arguable – but effective.

Put these kids on Madison Avenue immediately : )

Circular Reasoning at its finest

Representation of the TV Spot showing a floating blade.

“If it can float on water, think about how smooth it will feel on your face.”

Depending on your point-of-view, Circular Reasoning is either a marketing technique, a bit of “slight-of-tongue”, or outright misdirection.

Circular Reasoning exists when one provable fact (like a double-edged blade floating on water) is used to validate an unrelated claim (like it will feel smooth on your face).

See how many you can come up with.

I was honored (on behalf of my students) for excellence in the teaching of marketing, advertising, and consumer education.

What this experience taught me was…give people some basic training and task them with putting that training to work combining it with their own innate creativity…and you’ll find some extraordinary hidden talents.

From what I know, one of the students is now an optometrist, another writes high-level code for a multi-national aircraft manufacturer, a third is a mom and a fourth was majoring in Marketing and Copywriting…(yay!).

To Your Astronomical Success,

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More For You

As you progress in marketing and copywriting, here are a couple of helpful articles for you:

And, if you are considering acquiring professional copywriting skills, might I suggest taking a serious look at my pride and joy, the “How To Write Copy” System at Write Like A Madman University.

You’ll find 4 full courses, 3 Tutorials, and 7 loaded toolboxes that will give you great “What-To”, “How-To”, and “Why-To” information.  These 159 Members-Only videos, audios, guides, checklists, templates, and real world Case Studies will provide you with an unbeatable copywriting and marketing “How-To” resource you’ll use throughout your career.

Plus, you’ll get access to my Blog Like A Madman with over 115 articles covering various topics to help you be the best writer or marketer/writer you can be.

And you’ll also be able to call on me as a coach, mentor, and editor.


Copywriting Marketing Marketing Strategy

Marketing Mind Games – What They Don’t Want You To Know

Marketing Mind Games – What They Don’t Want You To Know

Marketers (and Copywriters) are not devious people.  They are, however, not above allowing you, the customer, to draw your own conclusions based on nothing more than your own mind.  These are the Marketing Mind Games they play.

The “trick”, if I can use that word, is not based on a lie, or even a small misrepresentation.  The trick is in understanding how the human mind works.  In understanding psychology.

It’s somewhat like if you’re in a restaurant and the table next to is served their food.  One person takes a bite and audibly reacts with a “mmmmm-mmm”.  Then says to their table mates, “OMG, is this ever deee-licious!”.

When the waiter comes around for your order, you say, “I’ll have what she’s having”.

The strong suggestion you took from the person at the other table influenced your decision.  For good, or for not so good – only your first bite will tell.

Marketers understand “suggestion” better than most.  With the two examples we’ll deal with in this installment of Marketing Mind Games, I believe you’ll come out understanding it too.

1. The A/B Ruse

2. The “Ahhh” That Refreshes


Marketing Mind Games as a Taste Test

 Do you believe the results of those comparison tests

where people choose between A and B?

You won’t after you read this.

Proving what?  The advertising copy seems to say this ‘proves‘ Tweedledee is better than Tweedledum.   Therefore, you ought to buy Tweedledee.  These comparison tests are inflicted on us by brands and their slippery marketing consultants so they can both sway Tweedledum users to consider buying Tweedledee and confirm to Tweedledee lovers that they made the right choice all along. 

They’re playing Marketing Mind Games on you.

Can’t argue with a scientific test, right?  Not so fast.  Let’s take a look at the typical consumer test…Pepsi vs Coke, Prego vs Ragu, Rocco’s Gelato vs Fred’s Gelato and so forth… from the perspective of an honest brand strategist and copywriter who detests sneaks, cheats, and liars. 

In a double-blind test, one product is labeled “A” and the other is labeled “B”.  Neither the consumer nor the tester knows which product is which. Sounds fair, no?   No.  Meet the A/B Ruse

It’s the oldest trick in the book, a carnival game, a first-class deception, a marketing strategy used by charlatans.  Here’s the bottom line:  “A” ALWAYS WINS!  Not only does “A” always win, but the percentages remain remarkably consistent.  About

70% – 30%, give or take a couple of points (as long as you test at least 200 subjects).

Why?  Simple.  In our culture “A” has a better connotation than “B”.  “A” is first class, highest quality.  “B” is the also ran.  If you get a B on your math test instead of an A, do you feel elated?  You want to be included on the A-List.  Second-rate films are referred to as “B” movies.  Do you want to be part of the “A Team” or the “B Team”?  In people’s minds “A” is always superior to “B”.

This has been proven over and over again by “testing” identical products with the A and B labels.  The same soda in each cup, the same pasta sauce in each bowl, the same cookie on each plate… “A” always wins.  When teaching a Consumer Economics and Marketing course, my class did a taste test with two brands of orange juice. 

First, we labeled one juice “A”, and it won.  Then we tested a second group of subjects where we labeled the winning juice “B”, and it lost.  By almost the exact same margin.  Then, for good measure, we tested a third group where both A and B were the same brand of juice.  Guess what?  Right you are.  A won, being preferred by about 68%.  Amazing!

Now I want to assure you, the A/B Ruse can be inflicted upon consumers of many things, not just food and drink.  I’ve heard of “blind” tests comparing headache remedies, golf balls, and even seat cushions.

If you truly want to do a scientific test, label the products 36GTD121 and 36SRN276.  Now you have a great chance of coming up with a valid result.  But why would companies spend good money on a test that isn’t totally rigged in their favor?  They wouldn’t.

So, if you’re involved in marketing and you’re seeking a way to differentiate your product from that of your competitor, resist the temptation to “fake it” by reverting to the old A/B Ruse.  It’s a game you don’t want to play.


Why Marketing people link "Ahhh" to tasty, refreshing, and perfect?

When someone takes a drink and then goes “Ahhh!”

it means the drink is tasty, refreshing and satisfying, right? 

Not so fast….read on.

One of the talents good copywriters bring to the table is the ability to add an emotional component to the sales pitch.  By inventing some word or phrase that embodies an emotion, a copywriter adds that extra layer of persuasion that might make the difference between an average success and a rip-roaring, break out the champagne and give the copywriter a bonus success.

I’m getting older – and for a guy who offers professional copywriting services, that means many of my examples are from my days as a callow youth.  You may, if you’ve reached your fifth decade, remember “Mmm Mmm Good!” (Campbell’s Soup)

What a grand idea.  Describing soup as “Mmm Mmm Good!” is far better than any ordinary words the copywriter could have used, like tasty, delicious, satisfying, exciting or exhilarating.  That one phrase got a generation or two of kids to like eating soup.

Most everyone is familiar with the beverage commercial showing a person just after they’ve downed a healthy amount of whatever’s being advertised.  He or she looks at the drink and goes “Ahhhh”.  Don’t laugh.  We all do it.  And we all understand it.  It means “this is good; this is refreshing; this hit the spot”.  Now here’s the little secret.  It’s almost impossible not to go “Ahhh!” after taking a big swig of your favorite beverage.  Here’s why.

When you prepare to take in a goodly amount of liquid (water, beer, coffee, soda, etc) you first take in a breath, then you hold that breath and drink.  (Think about it…if you tried to breathe while you’re drinking you might just drown.) 

When you’ve finished your swallow you, by necessity, release your breath and out comes… “Ahhh!”.   You might even emulate commercials and look at the drink in your hand, satisfied.

So whatever great copywriter first thought of this as a way of showing their beverage is so refreshing, tasty, and wonderful, the drinker can’t help but express extreme satisfaction, kudos to him or her.   Encourage people to associate your beverage with exactly the quality that moves them to buy.  In other words – whatever you associate with “Ahhh” is what you get. 

No middleman is necessary to tell you what you’re feeling, so the advertiser can’t be wrong.  “Ahhh!”.

Not really.  I want here to draw the distinction between a Marketing Mind Game – designed to deceive, and some very, very good psychological copywriting.  In using the word “Ahhh!” to relate to good, satisfying, refreshing, warming, etc. is just the copywriter capturing what consumers actually do – but never really noticed.

This is no Marketing Mind Game.  Get a jump on your Website and Copywriting with my FREE Guide, 5 Steps To Becoming A DARN GOOD Copywriter.  It’s a great help for copywriters of every skill level -especially honest ones.

Many budding copywriters and business owners need help in crafting branding statements, advertising, online web copywriting and content, press releases and the like.  I encourage you to find a good branding strategy consultant/professional copywriter who can take what’s in your heart and your head and put it in a way that will let you reach your goal of educating your prospects, allowing them to conclude they would have to be raving lunatics if they didn’t do business with you.  If you’re looking for a good online digital copywriting course, kindly check out Write Like A Madman And Make Money Like Crazy, my 13-Video, 30-piece multi-media Signature Course.  Click here to watch the first video Free

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