February 14, 2017

Marketing Lessons from Shakespeare

I’ve been watching a documentary series about William Shakespeare, called The King & the Playwright: A Jacobean History.

Shakespeare was writing in the early 1600’s; a tumultuous time in English history. The Tudor dynasty had come to an end, and the events that led to the English civil war were in motion.

King James I of England and VI of Scotland was on the throne, harbouring unpopular ideas of unification between England and Scotland. Common land previously open for communal use was being fenced and privatised, as part of enclosure. Robert Catesby and Guy Fawkes came within a few hours of blowing up parliament.

Shakespeare alluded to all of these things in his plays.

Incidentally, the reason there was so much gunpowder lying about, was because the infamous ‘Petre Men’ had the King’s authority to collect the gunpowder ingredient saltpetre from anywhere, anyhow and from anybody. If anywhere on your property was covered in pigeon shit, the King’s men would unceremoniously rip it from under you.

Shakespeare wrote about that, too.

When you look at Shakespeare’s work, he heavily draws on contemporary events. He didn’t just dream up his stories. Coriolanus was probably inspired by the events surrounding enclosure. Macbeth and King Lear explore issues surrounding troubled kingdoms. The irony wouldn’t have been missed by anyone unhappy with James I’s regime.

Of course, all of these plays end with the kingdom restored to harmony; an ending that would have pleased King James. Shakespeare’s real art was exploring contemporary issues of the day, but in a probing, politically safe way.

I tell you this for two reasons.

1. If you’re telling stories in your marketing, you don’t have to ‘come up with’ the stories yourself. It’s perfectly acceptable to comment on contemporary events. Shakespeare did it, and so can you.

2. The real challenge is to upgrade your reader’s level of thinking. That was the goal Shakespeare aspired to in his work, and it’s the goal you should aspire to also.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.