8 Marketing Lessons From William Shakespeare


An annual treasured summer treat for me is attending a play in the woods at American Players Theater in Spring Green, WI. As a writer, I tend to gravitate towards the works of William Shakespeare because of his masterful worldplay.

Watching a recent production of Twelfth Night, I began to think about what kind of advice the wise Shakespeare might offer to marketers today. Here are eight lessons I think we can learn from The Bard's many plays:

  1. "All that glisters (glitters) is not gold." — The Merchant of Venice

    It's very easy for marketers to come down with Shiny Object Syndrome, where they chase the newest trend or marketing technology that catches their attention. But most things that shine don't end up truly adding to the bottom line. Keep your focus on building on and tweaking marketing channels that work to maximize the revenue return from them, rather than starting over with a new project every month.

  2. "An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told." — King Richard III

    Great copywriting means less is more. Ensure you are speaking your customers' language and not using industry jargon and fancy words to try and make your product sound superior. Tell stories. Connect emotionally. Get to the point.

  3. "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice." — Hamlet

    Marketing and sales teams often need a reminder to listen more than they talk. Gathering customer feedback and market research can be essential to improving your offering and the way it is communicated. Be receptive to hearing customer needs and embracing complaints. Then use that voice of customer to drive your business forward.

  4. "The course of true love never did run smooth." — A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    The course of marketing never did run smooth either. Be prepared to fail over and over again, but have the strength to persist in the face of adversity. Also prepare yourself for sudden turns in strategy and expect to be surprised along the way, both positively and negatively.

  5. "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." — All's Well that Ends Well

    Live your mission and purpose through honesty and transparency. Make corporate social responsibility part of your marketing efforts by giving back to your community or finding causes to champion. The most dynamic companies today integrate social good efforts into their business.

  6. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." — Romeo and Juliet

    Branding is important, but remember at the end of the day your brand is just a name or label for the value you deliver. The product or service you provide should speak for itself and what your reputation is truly based on. You will find a good product backed by excellent customer service will almost sell itself.

  7. "If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me." — Macbeth

    Alas, unlike Macbeth and Banquo we don't have witches we can turn to for help in predicting whether our marketing plans will lead to success or failure. We can base our plans on past performance, leading indicators, market research, and a little bit of "gut instinct," but I'd like to save and use this line in a future forecasting meeting!

  8. "Action is eloquence." — Coriolanus

    In the marketing field it can be easy to get lost in the planning, and never get to the doing. At the end of the year, would you rather have an eloquent written business plan or the sales results that come from putting your tactics into action in the field? I'd go with the latter.

Some good advice never goes out of style, even 300 years after it was written. I'm sure there could be many more examples from the best-selling fiction author of all time, but I will just leave you with: "Parting is such sweet sorrow, That I shall say good night till it be morrow..."

Photo credit: American Players Theater Book of Summer design/artwork by Planet Propaganda.

About the author

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Maeghan Nicholson

Maeghan Nicholson

Maeghan is the Director of Marketing at Suttle-Straus. A journalist at heart, she has used her writing skills to develop corporate thought leadership campaigns designed to make business-to-business connections. In her role, she manages all aspects of marketing and advertising, from website updates and content creation to conferences and events.
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Topics: Brand Management