Lessons in Brand Building We Learned from Shakespeare

There’s no doubt the actor, playwright and poet, William Shakespeare influenced society, but his impact is wider than you might think. Take branding, for instance. Four-hundred years after he died, Shakespeare still has one of the most recognizable brands in the world. So, what lessons can we learn from “The Bard,” and how do these lessons relate to branding?

You can see his influence everywhere – from the words we use to how we tell stories. Shakespeare actually invented over 1,700 words and phrases still in use today. His name and likeness grace everything from books and cigars to souvenirs and even celestial bodies. As his work became more familiar, Shakespeare’s brand continued to grow.

A brand is more than just a logo or a tagline. It has personality. It can evoke intangible feelings and build relationships. Shakespeare’s brand has only grown stronger over time. Let’s look at just a few of the words he introduced into the vernacular and how those words relate to brand building:

  1. His work was MARKETABLE (As You Like It, Act I, Scene II)

The word marketable is defined as “fit to be sold or marketed.” Shakespeare’s work was certainly enjoyed by wide audience, crossing socio-economic backgrounds. They may not have rubbed elbows in the theater, but Shakespeare’s plays transcended social divides.

Lesson: Make your brand marketable by first understanding your audience. Regardless of the demographic, consumers will always have demands. Listen to them diligently and consistently.

  1. Going to a play was EVENTFUL (As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII.)

The term eventful is defined as “marked by interesting or exciting events.” In Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, the mood often turned quite rowdy. Gin was sold cheaply, and the course of a play could be swiftly altered by the mood of the crowd Shakespeare’s plays were full of scandal, intrigue, comedy and tragedy, which made for a truly eventful time.  Other playwrights performed their work in similar environments, but the nucleus of the event – the words and performance themselves – could not be truly mimicked.

He even protected his brand by slipping subtle cues into scripts to ensure the performances were consistent. These weren’t just stage cues like we see in scripts today, rather sentences were structured to regulate the speed, breaths and tone with which they were delivered.

Lesson: Give your customers an experience they can’t get elsewhere. Whether it’s amazing product quality or fantastic customer service, craft a one-of-a-kind experience that will keep them interested. Protect this reputation by ensuring consistent excellence.

  1. Shakespeare is still an ADVERTISING icon (Measure for Measure, Act V Scene I)

Advertising is defined as “the act or practice of calling public attention to one’s product, service, need, etc.” When Shakespeare used the word, he meant “calling attention to.” Though Shakespeare himself didn’t spend much time on self-promotion, others have capitalized on his name and work for centuries. His likeness has appeared in advertisements for everything from Coca-Cola to an 18th century stationary company. Using his name was often used as a way to represent elegance, higher education and literary aptitude.

Lesson: Shakespeare understood that storytelling was the most powerful form of advertising. First, understand why you do what you do. Then, decide how you’ll channel your purpose through advertising messages. If the message is genuine, you’ll likely be well received.

Try to follow lessons from Shakespeare’s vocabulary when building your own brand. Make sure you’re marketable. If your product or service doesn’t appeal to anyone, go back to the drawing board. You don’t have to put on a performance to be eventful; just offer your audience a unique experience with your brand. Finally, let everything you do serve as a living advertisement for your brand. If your customers believe in your why, they will buy into your what. Above all else, be genuine, or as Shakespeare himself wrote, “to thine own self be true.”

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