What Poetry Has to Do with Marketing

Honestly, I never thought I would have an application for my poetry skills outside of the University of Michigan’s graduate program in Creative Writing.  In fact, you’re probably questioning if the title of this blog entry is a mistake; didn’t I mean how to market poetry? Or that poetry has no market? Or there is no reason to market poetry because no one reads it? I mean, how many poetry books do you have in your library? Perhaps a little Robert Frost from back in the day; Wallace, but only because the word “ice cream” is in the title of his book; Ginsberg and Kerouac because who doesn’t like the sixties? As I began to work for start-up companies, I have found that poetry—the art of it, the skill of it—has crept its way into the marketing world, specifically, the digital marketing world.

Let’s start by defining digital marketing: “Digital Marketing is the promoting of brands using all forms of digital advertising channels to reach consumers.” Thank you, Wikipedia. I’m going to limit this definition  to include internet, mobile, social media marketing and any other form of digital media.  Marketing, in this way, is motivated and translated by language. You might even say that the craft of marketing is consumed in language. (A double entendre!)

Many inbound marketing strategies involve tools such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, website content, etc. When we use these tools, we are using language to convey our messages—that shouldn’t be surprising. What we often neglect to think about is the price of language: it’s expensive (in a figurative sense).  Many of these tools don’t just ask that we be concise, but they pride themselves on concision; they require it.  Twitter gives you 140 characters. And while other tools may allow you to have more space, more words, today’s culture has shortened many of our attention spans. In fact, if you are still reading this, I should pat myself on the back.  Think about text messages, emails—any way we communicate using text—it’s short, to-the-point. Our world has come to communicate in real-time, no exceptions. That said, if we put a value to every individual word, some are more expensive than others. For example, “Stuff,” “Things,” “Sometimes,” are most expensive because they cost you space, and they don’t mean a thing. Ahem. Changing words from “stuff” to “apps” or “ techniques” makes a difference.  Everyone can attach a direct meaning to those concrete words. They are less expensive simply because they don’t take up much space AND they get the job done. Similarly, poetry must be concise.

Take, for example, a line from Sylvia Plath: “Poetry is the blood jet and there is no stopping it.” I’m not going to provide a poetry analysis, but I will marvel at the strength and movement of this phrasing. The comparison to a striking image: a blood jet. The image is compelling, haunting, yet it took 51 characters.

Beyond concision, digital marketing asks for creativity. You can’t simply say “Buy this Product Now” and expect many clicks. We must cloak the idea in something interesting. We must use personality and image.  Digital marketing asks the reader to participate, experience, think through the idea, and ultimately form a deeper bond with that experience. That’s today’s branding.  Below you will see some content from various sites I adore. Thanks for reading!

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