“MEN WANTED for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.” –Ernest Shackleton, 4 Burlington Street”

As the story goes, this ad was placed in London newspapers in the early 1900s. The story claimed that the ad generated at least 5,000 responses from men and women of all ages ready to embark on the adventure of a lifetime with the likelihood of a doubtful return. The ad’s response was a catalyst for claiming its spot in a book titled The 100 Greatest Advertisements of All Time.

The ad was supposedly written by an Arctic explorer named Ernest Shackleton. An ad that’s only 26 words long, just slightly too long for Twitter, with no fancy graphics, just plain text, but one that stops you dead in your tracks moving you to action. This ad accomplished what most sales and marketing messages are never to able to achieve. It got the prospects attention by planting a story in your head–a story of adventure, the unknown, the ability to become a hero and a legend.

We can get our prospect’s attention in a lot of ways. You can whack a hammer on a desk to get someone’s attention. You can say something provocative and edgy, and that might do it. But there is a far more effective way, and that’s to get the attention that matters.

We have a window of opportunity to plant the seed of memory and to tell a story. Stories are emotional, and they create a reaction, and that’s exactly what Shackleton did with this ad.

Think about how you would have reacted if you had seen the ad. You would have created images in your mind about what an expedition like this would be like. It would have likely encouraged you to have images of adventure, danger, challenge, heroism, and achievement.

Note that the ad threw out a few ideas like danger and honor and let you, the reader, do the rest. In other words, the ad made you make up your story by giving you a few key- words. Moreover, not only did it spell out what the job was–a dangerous expedition–it spelled out the “why” of the job–honor and accomplishment, with a little heroism thrown in for good measure.

You might presume the market for your product or service simply “is what it is.” Think of the oil industry, for example. But when the market comes back, you need to make sure you and your customers are telling the right story and creating the right impact. They’re choosing someone, regardless of competition and most often regardless of price; they’re making that decision based on the story being told in the marketplace.

I give you challenges like this a lot and this week’s challenge is no different.

Ask two or three of your top clients to tell you why they continue to do business with you.

Ask a new customer why they decided to choose you over the competition.

See how closely these stories align with the story your customer-facing people (your sales, marketing, customer service people, executive team) are telling. You might find some incongruities, and that’s where you’ll have a decision to make. Do you maintain your current course commoditizing yourself, and leaving everything up to the market? Or, do you embark on a journey to tell the story you know needs to be told.

I’m going to warn you, choosing the later might lead to a few months of darkness, danger, and bitter cold. But if you succeed, you’ll create honor, recognition, and growth more powerful than anything your competition is putting out there. This is the power of the first stage of The Customer Loyalty Loop.

Want help? I can help you and your team do this, or least find the gaps.

Or, you snag a copy of my latest book, The Customer Loyalty Loop, which is officially published next week and has already hit #1 in various Amazon categories. You should do that regardless!

Until next week,


P.S. Unfortunately, the ad might have been a myth. It may have never even been published. One website has devoted the past 15 years to trying to find a copy of the advertisement and put up a massive $100 cash bounty for anyone who can find it. Dozens of Internet sleuths have searched the microfiche archives of hundreds of newspapers looking for the ad in hopes of securing that bounty.

I want to believe it’s real because your sales & marketing can have that level of impact and generate that sort of result if you do it right. If you want in on the $100 bounty, you can read about it here.