10 Things Shakespeare Can Teach You About Marketing
Friends, Romans, marketers… Lend me your ears.
We could go on forever about how William Shakespeare is the face of English literature. It’d be easy to use a cliché statement, such as “his work transcends time.” Although, it is the truth. His words have survived over 400 years and will continue to be relevant until the end of time. His plays still sell in theaters. And he coined so many quippy one-liners that are common today (where did you think the phrase “star-crossed lovers” or “own flesh and blood” came from?). At the very least, we will say that Shakespeare was a literary wizard.
But instead of giving you a history lesson, we’ve compiled ten famous quotes by Shakespeare that prove his art truly is ubiquitous–and can be geared toward marketers, too. When broken down, the phrases chosen here will inspire better all-around marketing for any business. These famous quotes by Shakespeare will encourage fearlessness, make you think twice about the amount of information you present to you audience, and may even bring out your most intelligent marketing abilities.
All ten phrases on this list were plucked right out of his plays. Even if you haven’t read or seen the play before, there’s a strong chance you’ve heard (or used) these famous quotes by Shakespeare himself. Who would’ve thought that the great Shakespeare–aside from being a literary whiz–could inspire marketers to enhance their work, too?
10 famous quotes by Shakespeare that will make you think more deeply about your marketing efforts
1. “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.“
–Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor (II.ii.293-294)
In marketing, you always want to be ahead of the curve, whether you’re advertising a product or beginning a whole new marketing campaign. You need to give your audience enough time to get excited about what you’re about to sell beforehand. If you start marketing your product in advance, it’ll give you more time to build up your company to the people.
2. “…brevity is the soul of wit…“
–Polonius in Hamlet (II.ii.90)
Memorable slogans say so much in a few words–just like this phrase. A catchy one-liner like Palmolive’s “Tough on grease, soft on hands” sticks in people’s minds because it defines the product without giving everything away. It doesn’t go overboard, nor is it forgettable. The slogan is direct and precisely describes what people should expect from the product.
3. “…but be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.“
–Malvolio in Twelfth Night (II.v.136-138)
Which one of the three descriptions of greatness describes you?
It can be intimidating to compete with other businesses in your industry, but it doesn’t mean you should be shy about putting your business out there. Everyone has their place in the market. Find your company’s niche and advertise it to the world at full force. Spotlight the best qualities in your product, and people will see that your company is the greatest.
4. “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action…“
–Hamlet in Hamlet (III.ii.17-18)
The most respectable thing a company can do is align their words with their actions. Follow up with your promises so that your customers trust you. But it’s also important that you make realistic guarantees. Don’t proclaim something if you cannot tow the line. In marketing any business, you want to paint the best possible picture; but make sure your actions reflect your words.
5. “…no legacy is so rich as honesty.“
–Mariana in All’s Well That Ends Well (III.v.12-13)
At the end of the day, you want people to know that they’re conducting business with an honest and trustworthy company. Similar to the above quote, this one is telling you to stay true to your word and always be upfront about your business’ capabilities. If someone looks back at an exchange or experience they had with your company, they’ll remember your candidness in a positive way. That way here, your customers will give you great recommendations (another important form of marketing).
6. “All that glisters is not gold…“
–Morocco in The Merchant of Venice (II.vii.65)
Quality over everything.
When you’re selling a product, you can package it in an attractive way, and you could have the most influential people endorse it, too. Another important tip is to market a quality product or service. A product with “cool” packaging will interest the customer; but if the product isn’t functional, all the time you took to market it was a waste.
7. “Boldness be my friend!“
–Iachimo in Cymbeline (I.vi.18)
Make a statement by thinking outside of the box! The only way to stand out in any given industry is to walk along an unpaved path. Marketing is about being enthusiastic, confident, and excited about your company. When you think of ads or marketing campaigns, do something people would never expect. Ads that are energetic and creative will engage your customers, and hopefully a new audience.
8. “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.“
–Feste in Twelfth Night (I.v.33-34)
Nothing is worse than cliché advertising. Who else has felt second-hand embarrassment from watching a cheesy commercial with over-the-top acting? Imagine yourself as the customer, and see if you would be positively affected by your ads. Marketing is about influencing people to go to your business, not turning them off. When you market your business, show that you’re distinctive yet timeless.
9. “…what’s past is prologue…“
–Antonio in The Tempest (II.i.252)
Any marketing actions you’ve taken beforehand has led you toward this moment. Additionally, anything you do now will lead you to a certain future. When you make decisions, think about this quote first and reflect about your company’s future. Are your current decisions leading the business toward the future you want?
10. “…it is a wise father that knows his own child.“
–Lancelot in The Merchant of Venice (II.ii.71-72)
Out of context, this quote might seem strange for marketers. But here’s how to rationalize it: think of yourself as the father and the child as your customers. When you know who your customers are, what they want, and what they expect, then marketing your company will become less complicated. You won’t have to take guesses before jumping into a marketing strategy. Doing a little market research goes a long way. Above all, establishing a relationship with your customers will also keep them coming back to you.