The famous Shackleton ad that never ran

By now you would’ve seen the remarkable images of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic exploration ship Endurance at the bottom of the Weddell Sea.

hackletonIt was one of the most amaing stories of human survival ever. All 28 members of the crew lived to tell the tale, after months stranded in the frozen Antarctic before they were finally rescued.
News of the ship’s discovery, two miles down on the ocean floor, reminded me of Sir Ernest’s famous newspaper ad, calling for crew for an earlier expedition to the south pole.

Now, there’s no evidence that the ad you see at the top of this post ever actually ran in a newspaper. But he may have submitted it to the London Times for publication, only to have reporters see it first, sparking a flurry of (free) publicity in newspapers all over England.

Shackleton’s ad didn’t even mention a product or service. Far from trumpeting overblown benefits and features, it actually went the other way, in a deliberate, well-planned and brilliantly-executed dare to the manliness of every red-blooded adventurous male in England.

The point is, the ad appealed to emotion, not logic. 

Emotional adveritising is something I’ve been banging on about for years. Too many owners of businesses, large and small, waste time and energy trying to convince their prospective customers of the logic of buying your products or services.

But people buy on emotion first, and rationalize it later with logic. 

“I bought the Porsche because it’s built solid,” you’ll hear some guy say, when what he really means is “I bought the Porsche because it makes me feel young again.”

why men buy Porsches

Creative Theft Department: I know what you’re already thinking…what has this got to do with my hair salon/day spa/nail bar/laser clinic yada yada yada.)
Here’s what: 
The University of Life surrounds you. Google is your best friend. There is NO excuse for saying “I don’t know where to look for ideas” any more. Truth is, the answer to anything is right at your fingertips. Claiming you can’t find answers is akin to insisting the world is flat.)
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, emotion. The idea that you must offer a rational benefit in your marketing is nonsense.

There IS no rational, logical reason to buy a Porsche. Yet Porsche is THE most profitable car maker in the world. One of the most famous ads for Porsche cars featured nothing more than a picture of the car, and the following text:

Product benefits:
Too fast.
Doesn’t blend in.
People will talk.

In the beauty business, a rational benefit might be

Your skin will be 37% smoother.

But more powerful, and much more emotional:

Warning: Men will look at you.

Your target market is uneducated about the relative benefits of one hair stylist versus any of a thousand others. Has pretty much no idea of the difference between one hair removal clinic and a hundred competitors. Attempting to explain a rational, logical reason why they should choose you as against any and all of your competitors is considerably more difficult that pushing a peanut up the main street of town with your nose.

Faced with such a challenge, most businesses resort to the easiest, no-brainer path: discounting. The airlines are a classic example of this, undercutting each other because they can’t be bothered putting in the hard mental yards to come up with something better.
(Even here, there are examples of airlines actually striking an emotional note with their marketing.

Remember the Singapore Airlines ads featuring their emotional icon, the Singapore Girl? They backed it up with the rational proposition, ‘Inflight service even other airlines talk about…’)

Remnember the Singapore Girl ads for Singapore Airlines?

Aside: the rebel in me can’t help wondering what would happen if an airline offered a guarantee: We’ll get you there alive, or your money back.
Most business owners, having come up with a compelling offer – which is the rational reason to buy – rest on their laurels and leave it there. But the smart ones keep working at it, chewing away until they come up with that hard-to-define emotional reason to buy. I often call it a Unique Selling Proposition. But it can equally be re-named an ESP or Emotional Selling Proposition.
Either way, these are salon marketing tools that work, and work for you.
The real difference between one hair salon and another, between one day spa and another, is at best small, and certainly difficult to convey to the uneducated. But an emotional difference is – while more difficult to find in the first place – much easier to get across, much easier for the prospect to feel, and therefore much more powerful.