I got really good grades in high school, especially in English and history. In math and science, let’s just say I was able to absorb and hold the information in my brain long enough to do well on tests.
But the one thing that threw me for a loop had nothing to do with calculus or physics. It was Shakespeare.
As I read the very first lines of Macbeth as a freshman, I was lost.
First Witch: When shall we three meet again… In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Second Witch: When the hurlyburly’s done… When the battle’s lost and won.
Third Witch: That will be ere the set of sun.
Are these witches trying to schedule a meeting and counting on bad weather? And what the hell is a hurlyburly?
Thank goodness for CliffsNotes, a study guide that can be summed up in six words from the CliffsNotes website – a tool to help you understand.
I’m not trying to disparage the poetic and literary brilliance of Shakespeare. I was just very fortunate to have a resource that could take very confusing, unfamiliar language and bring it down to my level.
That’s what our marketing content should do.
Marketing content should take our in-depth knowledge of and passion for our company and product – and the results we can deliver to the customer – and present that information in a way that a non-expert can easily understand.
One of the famous lines in Romeo and Juliet is:
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
Thanks to CliffsNotes, I learned Juliet wasn’t asking where Romeo was. “Wherefore” means “why.” Juliet was asking why Romeo was who he was – a Montague.
Shakespeare was using the language of the day. But there are business owners and marketers who would rather use a word like “wherefore” instead of “why” because they think it makes them sound smarter or more creative.
These are the same people who use the word “ideate” or “ideation” because it sounds so much more sophisticated than “brainstorming” or “coming up with ideas.” I think it sounds like a made up word.
These are the same people who promise an “immersive experience.” Great. Next time I want to go underwater, perhaps to take a ride in a submarine or drown, I’ll know who to call. Thank you very little.
These are the same people who call a person “vitriolic” instead of just calling them mean or cruel. I think it’s cruel to your customers to use words like “vitriolic.”
There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a website or reading a blog and having to read it twice because the message was unclear. If the content is just poorly written with incorrect punctuation and run-on sentences, that’s a whole separate issue.
When marketing content is difficult to comprehend because the author was trying to sound smart, clever or sophisticated, it’s not helping anyone. It’s just a fairly obvious yet pointless attempt to show off or impress someone, but that someone is rarely the customer.
The customer will be impressed by clarity. Solutions to their problems. Information that’s valuable and relevant.
Anything more is just fluff and window dressing.
Focus less on trying to be funny, clever or creative, and focus more on delivering a simple explanation that removes all doubt about how your organization can make someone’s life better.
For those of you who insist on trying to impress people with your alleged mastery of language and wit, let me close with three quotes from Shakespeare that likely apply to you and your content.
The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. (As You Like It)
You speak an infinite deal of nothing. (The Merchant of Venice)
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth)
Amen, Billy Shakes. Amen.
I’m a copywriter, marketing consultant, lifelong New Jersey resident, husband to a beautiful wife and father to two beautiful girls. I love playing with my daughters, a day at the boardwalk, sarcasm, craft beer and grilling. I despise beating around the bush, synchronized swimming, Toddlers & Tiaras and onions. Most people don’t know I used to be a radio DJ and once wrote, produced and voiced a commercial for the TV show 24. Two places I want to visit before I die are Ireland and Norway, the homes of my ancestors. One place I never want to revisit is my first apartment because my creepy landlord, Monty, freaked me out. That just about covers it.