Marketing 101

Posted by Ken Campbell March 9, 2011 0 Comment 826 views

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.”
The above is from an ad placed by one Sir Ernest Shackleton, trying to generate applicants for his Antarctic voyage. At least, that’s the way the story has come down; I don’t know that there is any verified version of the actual ad that has survived. But that isn’t important. What is important is that whatever sort of publicity program he used, over five thousand men applied for the 28 spots available on Endurance. As an applicant, your odds of gainful employment were not good.
That’s a lot of people willing to take a chance, willing to risk whatever they had for a shot at adventure. And that’s what it was. The pay really was poor and the rations were pathetic, even deadly. To go from the sooty air of London to somewhere that was “bitter cold,” sounds like a lateral move to me and the implication that this new land will be my final resting place? Not an effective hook, if you’re writing an ad.
But it is the sub-text of that ad that brought in the festival crowd. It was the stuff in between the lines that made it impossible to resist. It is as if, just below the surface of the words on the page, there is another level, another layer of parchment, and on it is written, in bold font: “Adventure.”
You can’t miss the covert checklist. Hazardous journey? Check! Cold and dark? Check! Adventure is not always fun, but it does make life as interesting as possible. Life writ large. It’s difficult to explain and there are times when it doesn’t make much sense – even to those who say they get it – but it’s as true now as it was back then. And, back then, for at least 5000 men, adventure was a far more interesting choice than what they had.

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