Often, the things we sell are not sexy.
The words we use to sell them need not be sexy, either.
But what those words do require is the ring of truth and trust.
Nobody knew this better than a plumber’s kid from the South Bronx. He had a big problem. He had dealt with this problem most of his adult life. Many other people had, too.
And when he came up with a solution, he sold it to a waiting nation with a message that rang with truth and trust.
IMPORTANT NOTE: He never once used the words “truth” or “trust.”
He used plain, simple English.
But, not at first.
His first effort flopped.
His first effort at selling his not-sexy service was done with what many advertising professionals would approve as an aspirational lifestyle message.
His first TV commercial featured a tall, handsome, athletic man. This man is shown jogging, playing tennis, riding a horse, and looking very much like nobody you’ve ever known.
The athletic man’s hair, in every shot, seems to be blowing in the breeze and looking amazing.
While the cameras and crew were shooting this TV commercial, something else happened.
It was something inexcusable and frightening.
This thing was done by the ad man in charge of the jogging, tennis-playing, horseback-riding message.
The ad man came to speak with the plumber’s kid from the South Bronx.
This ad man whom the plumber’s kid had entrusted with his message said something like this:
“In case this ad doesn’t work, I’d like to shoot footage of you just talking about this.”
No handsome man with great hair?
Just the business owner?
So not sexy.
Anyway, the message with the sexy, aspirational lifestyle message ran.
It was a flop.
So they ran the not-so-sexy backup commercial.
That was the message with the plumber’s kid and his South Bronx accent talking about his business.
That message did something different.
It generated over 10,000 calls.
This regular Joe looked right at the camera and said a line that became the much-loved punchline to so many jokes on late-night TV.
“I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client.”
The nation lost many notable people in 2020. Sy Sperling’s death did not have the highest profile.
But the man whose catch phrase is lodged into the gray matter of several generations serves as an enduring example of advertising at its unvarnished best.
On so many levels, the Hair Club For Men advertising is considered bad.
And no, it doesn’t rise to the level of art.
But what it does do is rise to the level of effective craft.
That’s the level where it conveys truth and instills trust.
It resonates for a core customer who has a significant problem.
It stands as a shining example of how a focused and effective marketing message brings truth and trust.
The sexy, aspirational message failed.
The plain-spoken, truthful message was explosive.
That message helped Mr. Sperling build a business that began in a defunct beauty salon.
Mr. Sperling eventually sold that business for $45 million.
So the next time the ad isn't working and someone says it isn’t sexy enough...
Or if someone says it needs to be funny...
Or if someone says it needs to sound more like a commercial...
Or if someone says anything that clanks instead of rings, that’s a good time to ask one question…
Is it bringing the truth and trust?
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in Park City
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Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.