Roses are red,
Violets are blue.
Digital marketing is complex,
So is poetry – hence. . .
This blog post.
Robert Graves once said, “To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” In many ways, being a marketer is the same. It is a calling. You’re either built to stomach it or not. With the countless crumpled up pieces of paper, banging of heads against the wall, and more often than not, blood, sweat, and tears.
UNESCO defines the main benefit of poetry as “reaffirming our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings.” Poetry is a universal connective force, that more often than not leaves us with something that we didn’t have before. And good marketing does the same.
Here’s what I believe digital marketing can learn from poetry.
Doing More With Less
Haikus are a brilliant example of this. Sometimes we are limited to character counts or 17 syllables. But that doesn’t mean the end product is less impactful.
Poets choose to write poetry over novels because they understand the power of using fewer words. They know you can do more with less, by choosing the right words instead of using more words. A good example of this in the digital marketing world is the humble copywriter.
Even though content marketing and brief forms of digital copy like social media ad copy, are likely to run over a mere seventeen syllables – it’s always best to keep conciseness in mind. People online tend to scan instead of reading. Your words don’t necessarily need to be poetic, but they generally perform best when they don’t come across as salesy. Ew.
So while all poetry lovers enjoy a good epic, sometimes we need to learn how to cut back all the bullsh*t and just pick the right words. Channel that Bukowski-esque mindset. Great poets and marketers have both learned how to master wordplay.
Wordplay is a love shared by both poets and marketers. Like rhyming, rhythm, and puns. There’s even room to play around with risqué humour – just look at this list of some of Shakespeare’s dirty jokes. Of course, one of the world’s most notable poets had fun with his words.
The point remains: wordplay can make your message stand out, and poetry can show you how to do this. Wordplay is all about being creative. A fundamental element of creativity is, of course, inspiration. Input equals output, right? Although easier said than done, it’s not impossible.
Finding Inspiration (Everywhere)
Admittedly, I fell down a few poetry rabbit holes to get to this point. And much like the best poetry, this content piece has been procrastinated to the point of no return, and now I have no choice but to type furiously until I have something that resembles a finished product. But let’s chalk it up to being part of the creative process, shall we? Mine at least.
We cannot always wait for the muse to come to us. Sometimes we have to go out in search of our muse. We need to track them down. This can be soul-numbing. Personally, being stumped for ideas is something reminiscent of the opening lines of Poe’s “The Raven”:
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary . . .
Dramatics aside, we forge on, don’t we? We have blog posts to write, we have content to create, we have campaigns to launch. We must endeavour to continue following the call – “Keep going, you’ll find it soon.”
If you can endure the beautiful yet tedious journey that Rudyard Kipling’s “If–“ takes us on.
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting. . .
Then, something magical happens. Our efforts are rewarded, and we experience something that feels fated. Like one of my favourite modern poets, Nikita Gill, brilliantly penned in her piece “Miracle”:
It took 3.8 billion years
of triumphant evolution,
an unbelievable confluence
made by sheer will and influence
of this infinite universe
and all of the stars
to get you here.
You might be thinking, marketing isn’t this romantic – but then I would say that when you pour your heart and soul into it, then there is no doubt that it actually is.
Ultimately when it comes to both poetry and marketing . . .
It’s Not What It Means, It’s What It Does
We cannot discount the importance of digital marketing. After all, we are in the digital sphere. And in many ways, poetry has existed since the dawn of primitive beings developing their linguistic abilities.
Tall tales, epics and anecdotes have been used for centuries to relate us to things.
Poems tell a story – even if in an abstract way. And stories connect us. They remind us about where we’ve come from, they teach us about where we are now, and they give us hope for where we will eventually end up. Most importantly, poems help us discover something about ourselves.
And when done right, marketing does the same thing.
It forges an unspoken bond between a soul and something else. A brand, a story, a journey.
Sometimes we don’t know why a piece speaks to us, or why a campaign moves us – we only know that our bellies feel warm and tingly, and something is tugging at our heartstrings.
This brings us to the most important aspect of poetry (and digital marketing)…
Be Who You Are
Poetry teaches anyone in the digital sphere that when done correctly, content connects you with others, lights their souls on fire, and stirs their spirit. Working with the audience to bond them to a word, image, or thought in this constantly changing sphere and Universe.
At its core, poetry insists on both its writer and its reader to show up as themselves. Brands and marketers are often easily sucked into the whirlwind of trendsetting and trend-following, neglecting to be themselves. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is taking the less obvious choice and following that gut instinct.
Perhaps the best poetic sample of this notion, and the best way to end this piece, is with these lines of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.