Why Every Marketer Should Take Poetry
In marketing we talk a lot about grabbing the audience’s attention and evoking emotion, but not how to do it. Poetry teaches the tools that make emotional marketing work. Business courses rarely acknowledge the importance of wordsmithing in marketing, which is exactly why poetry became one of my most valued classes from university.
Kill the Cliche
“Go the extra mile”
“Good as gold”
“Cry me a river”
These cliches are as boring as paint drying on a wall. That one was as well, let’s say as boring as watching an ant slowly cross the pavement as you wait for your blind date to meet you on the corner of 5th ave and Center Street, who is twenty minutes late and your cellphone is dead. Cliches aren’t useless, they can get a point across quickly and effectively, but they lack something that fresh metaphors and sayings can do.
Consider Coca Cola’s “Open Happiness”. I often praise the poetic nature of this tagline because it does so much in two words. It tells the audience to take an action that is normally used on physical object and connect it to an abstract concept. The thing being opened is the concept of happiness, grounded by the verb ‘open’ that connects it as something you can hold. We all know the thing being held and opened is a bottle Coca Cola, the embodiment of happiness. This phrase ties an abstract concept with an action, a concrete object and a significant meaning in only two little words.
Cliches are far too common in marketing, especially in taglines. But a cliche doesn’t just exist in copy, they are common in other fields too, such as design. For example, while “hipster” white text on an HQ image style looks beautiful, it lacks something that a new unique style does.
… should be the natural enemy of copywriters. These words are necessary, but they rarely contribute to copy. Every sentence can usually be cut down by two or three words, or more. Short copy gets to the point, keeping the reader's attention. Empty little words bog down the reader, guiding away from the main topic.
Every sentence needs its own punch. Every line should create curiosity or tension to compel the reader to read on. People get bored easily, so every element should add something to the message.
Keep it Real
Abstract thoughts like love and happiness are the products being sold more often than the product itself. But how can a McCafe coffee equate to happiness? It’s their marketing that creates a vivid and specific experience that people can relate to. Not everyone has come out to their parents in McDonald’s, but the message speaks to our emotion. It can connect with us emotionally by providing a specific example of ‘acceptance’ that we can connect to.
Keep away from simply saying “XYZ product will make you happy”, and show how that’s really the case. Specific examples through copy or visuals help make the abstract concept more grounded.
Poetry has a variety of tricks up its sleeve, this is only a few of the many from my experience. The best way to learn and practice these skills is simply by taking a class and picking up a pen. Do you have any poetry techniques that are relevant to marketing? We’d love to hear what you’ve learned!