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“Lend me your ears”: 6 phrases that prove Shakespeare was a marketing expert

With the exception of perhaps Roget, William Shakespeare is the nearest copywriters have to a patron saint.

Given that 23 April is the day we celebrate both the birth and death of the greatest of all English language writers, I thought I’d devote this article to the Bard, and his status as not only a writing genius but also a marketing one.

We all quote Shakespeare in our day-to-day lives

When you consider the breadth, scope, and sheer volume of Shakespeare’s plays still performed around the world, it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the influence he still has today, four centuries later.

Watching any of his plays, you’ll never fail to hear a quotable line that leads you to think – “ah, that’s where it comes from”.

Furthermore, “cruel to be kind”, “break the ice”, “tower of strength”, “the world is my oyster” and “not slept a wink” are just a few of the hundreds of everyday phrases that emanated from his quill.

Not only that, but with his design of storylines and content that people could relate to, and his willingness to draw inspiration from many sources, it’s hard to argue against the contention that the Bard was at the very least, a marketing expert.

If you’re in any doubt, consider these selected lines from Shakespeare plays, and the marketing content lessons behind them.

1. “For mine own part, it was Greek to me” (Julius Caesar)

Or, to use a non-Shakespearean quote, “keep it simple, stupid”.

It’s far too easy to get bogged down in technical jargon without appreciating how receptive to your messages the casual reader will be.

Simplicity should always trump complexity, and it’s important to always be aware that too much detail on your website or in newsletters can be a big turn-off if your intended target audience just wants to know basic details.

I appreciate that sometimes it’s impossible to avoid some jargon, especially when it comes to explaining taxation principles, which can often sound Greek, even to those with a financial background!

2. ”All that glitters is not gold” (The Merchant of Venice)

This is another of those Shakespearean expressions that is still being used regularly to this day.

From a content perspective, it’s a message about ensuring you’re thinking carefully about what you’re providing for your newsletter readers and anyone looking at your website.

It also provides a valuable maxim to consider when you’re deciding on some of the additional website content beyond the details of your proposition and your people.

For example, it’s always good to highlight awards you and your business have won, but it can pay to be selective and ensure the ones you are highlighting are up-to-date and relevant. Quality usually beats quantity in this regard.

The same applies if you are minded to publish details of the client assets you have under management (AUM). While it may feel impressive to you, there’s always a danger of a too-high figure turning off clients who may feel that with that level of AUM, their funds may not get the attention they feel they deserve.

3. ”Brevity is the soul of wit” (Hamlet)

As well as ensuring you have the right content on your website and in your written communication, you also need to ensure the key messages you’re trying to get across aren’t getting buried under a mass of detail.

The quote is also relevant to the actual length of articles and website content. For example, if we’re writing a blog for a client newsletter, we’ll have a rough target of between 800 and 1200 words.

But if the message and call to action can be effectively distilled into 500 words with no loss of impact, then that’s what we’ll do.

Ideally, all content should be brief and concise, but provide all the relevant and appropriate information that someone needs to get value from it.

4. “Nothing will come of nothing” (King Lear)

This is probably the simplest and the most obvious of the marketing lessons Shakespeare littered throughout his plays.

It stresses the importance of being prepared to invest time and money in marketing your business.

A similar message can also be gleaned from Coriolanus and the expression “action is eloquence” which highlights the danger of over-managing and seeking perfection.

Ultimately, being seen to be doing something – whether it’s a newsletter or articles on your website – is better than doing nothing at all.

5. “Beware the Ides of March” (Julius Caesar)

The Roman soothsayer may well have been sending Ceasar a coded message about the “honourable men” behind him with sharpened daggers, but from a financial marketing perspective, March is Budget month.

Because of the publicity and history around the event, it’s the one time of year when you can be certain that many people are thinking about money and financial planning.

So you should be out there talking about it, and explaining what it all means.

Clients are likely to be receptive to anyone able to explain, in simple terms, how what the chancellor has announced will affect them and their loved ones. So a Budget newsletter, landing in their inbox a couple of hours after he has sat down can really pay dividends.

6. “The devil can cite scripture for his purpose” (The Merchant of Venice)

This final quote is effectively a culmination of everything here.

In reality, anyone can write reams of copy for newsletters and web content. But, as you read in point 2, flashy words aren’t necessarily what your clients, and potential clients, will appreciate or respond to.

The language has to be accessible, and what is down on paper or on-screen has to be appropriate for your target audience.

It also has to be consistent and updated to keep it fresh and topical. The right marketing content can be an effective window to your business, help create new relationships, and enhance existing ones.

“Exit, pursued by a bear”

This famous and unexpected stage direction is from The Winter’s Tale.

As well as posing a challenge to the stage manager of any theatre company intending to put on the play, it’s also designed to make the casual reader of the text stop and think.

Hopefully, the six points you have read about here will have done the same for you.

If you’d like help making your marketing content stand out from the crowd, we have a team of expert copywriters on hand to help.

Email or call us on 0115 896 5300 now.

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