What modern marketers can learn from India’s medieval poets.
I’m a big advocate of working with poets when it comes to marketing. Poetry, with its metaphors, rhymes and imagery, is a powerful way to communicate.
On World Poetry Day, I thought I’d highlight some lessons from India’s Bhakti movement. It was a movement of great thinkers and poets, with its heyday in the middle ages. Some of its leading lights are now seen as saints and one, Guru Nanak, founded Sikhism.
Speak their language
One of the hallmarks of the Bhakti movement was its move away from Sanskrit, the high language of Hinduism, which only those belonging to the Brahmin caste were allowed to learn.
Poets within the movement began creating poems in local languages and dialects. This move to communicating to the masses no doubt played a role in growth of the movement. If you want the brands you look after to grow, speak the language of the people.
Many of the Bhakti poets wrote verses that spoke to you. I don’t mean spoke to you in a philosophical sense, I mean they referred to you, the reader. They broke away from formality to address people directly.
Today, people are time-poor and inundated with marketing. For your marketing to work, be upfront. Talk to your audience directly.
Make it personal
The Bhakti movement was characterised by its poets’ personal devotion to God. They moved away from the rituals of mass religion.
Mass marketing is important and effective. There is a move towards personalisation, however, quite often we’re actually just automating marketing, not making any more individual.
Using my name in the introduction of an email isn’t personalisation. Your message needs to be personal to me, not just your opening line.
Make it memorable
Literacy rates were very low during the height of the movement. In order for poems to be shared they had to be memorable.
Too often, marketing copy is forgettable. Whether it’s jargon-filled, generic or uninspired, it represents wasted opportunities, wasted budgets and wasting talent.
Above all, the Bhakti movement questioned orthodoxy. Why are things done in this way? Marketing isn’t a skill you can learn by rote. You need to be creative and part of that is questioning why things are done a certain way. If you don’t get a satisfactory answer, go your own way.