Why marketers should read poetry

It’s World Poetry Day, and while UNESCO asserts the main benefit of poetry is that it “reaffirms our common humanity”, there’s another, more practical, benefit: reading poetry teaches you how to sell better. 

Whether or not “marketer” is in your job title, you are constantly selling. We sell ourselves, our expertise, our ideas, our organization. 

But underneath all that, we’re selling ideas, whether the idea is that our product will improve a customer's life, or that they will have a great time if they attend our event.

Poetry can teach you a lot about how to express your ideas better. Here are a few things you can learn from poetry about expressing ideas clearly, concisely, and creatively. 

1. Do more with less

A poet chooses to write a poem rather than a novel because she understands the power of using fewer words. She knows she can do more with less by choosing the right words rather than more words. 

This is a crucial lesson for marketers: choose the right words rather than more words. Especially online, people scan rather than read, and they do not like huge blocks of text. 

You need to do more with less, like a poet. You need to convey the most meaning in the fewest words, particularly if writing something with space constraints, such as a tweet, a brochure, or a 30-second radio spot. 

2. Master wordplay

Poets and marketers share a love of wordplay, such as double entendre and puns.

Both are particularly adept at using wordplay for risqué humour -- just look at this list with some of Shakespeare's dirty jokes, and see how AirAsia does it too. 

From a billboard outside the airport in Brisbane, Australia. Seven words is enough. 

From a billboard outside the airport in Brisbane, Australia. Seven words is enough. 

Wordplay can make your message stand out from the crowd. Poetry can show you how to do it. 

3. Get inspiration from anywhere

Poets draw inspiration from many different places, from the natural world to politics to their own feelings. No topic is off-bounds. 

Similarly, marketers are more successful when they draw inspiration from outside their fields. An ad for digestive pills is somehow charming when it includes a saxophone. A Ford advertisement is more interesting when it surprises with a city skyline instead of a vehicle.  

Poets link ideas in surprising ways, making connections and drawing inspiration from seemingly unconnected ideas. Tap into this same impulse to make interesting connections in your marketing. 

Dip into poetry with the Independent’s list of 10 famous poems. Go through the Awl’s poetry section. Read excerpts of Robert Montgomery’s poetry on billboards.  

From the MTA's Poetry in Motion campaign in New York City. The poet's assertion that a poem could "make you swoon, / stop you in yr tracks, / change ur mind, / or make it up." is similar to what marketing sets out to do, no? 

From the MTA's Poetry in Motion campaign in New York City. The poet's assertion that a poem could "make you swoon, / stop you in yr tracks, / change ur mind, / or make it up." is similar to what marketing sets out to do, no? 

Examine how poets put words together and take those lessons as you sell your ideas.