All the world’s a stage. (Today, we might say ‘platform.’)

This is an invitation for marketers to wake up their inner-bard.

“What for?” you ask. “What does dramaturgy have to do with marketing?”

Consider Shakespeare’s famous line, “All the world’s a stage,” from As You Like It. If that does not constitute a rousing enough premise to awaken your slumbering dramatist, what will?  Particularly on those occasions (a new product launch, for example) when you can use a fresh perspective.

“Okay,” I hear you willing to concede. “But what insight can be directly applied to marketing?”

The answer is simple: Know your characters.

As you can imagine, a deep understanding of why a specific character does what they do, or says what they say, is essential to creating an effective dramatic work. Without that insight, the action wouldn’t make any sense. It is only through a deep understanding of character, and, specifically, a character, that a successful play can be written, and a credible plot — which is driven by character — can be drawn.

It’s no surprise that Shakespeare was an expert on character. Where did he acquire such deep insight? Was it all intuitive? It turns out that Shakespeare knew humoral theory inside-out; i.e. the belief that one’s personality derives from a preponderance of one of four bodily substances. (This idea has been around since the ancient Greeks, who, coincidentally, are also credited with the invention of the stage play.) Shakespeare’s plays, and his descriptions of his characters, are full of references to humoral theory, which, up to more modern times, was the prevailing model of personality for over 2,000 years.

What about the marketing challenge of creating a successful customer experience? This is one of the areas where the analogy to writing and staging a drama applies to marketing. After all, if you don’t understand your customers — who are the principle players in your story — how on earth are you going to put on a show that makes sense to them, that’s relevant? One that wins their praise? And, ideally, helps your business grow an even a larger audience when your customers tell their friends about the wonderful experience they had?

Stuart Spencer, who wrote a popular manual about dramatic writing, tells us: “God knows we can’t precisely predict a person’s emotions at any given moment, no matter how much we know about their traits. But we do have clues, over time, as to how they will tend to react.”

I’m sure most of us can’t predict our own emotions over the course of a day, let alone the emotions of someone else. That is why Spencer’s statement rings true. It’s evident from our own experience. That said, there are indeed clues about behavior (as distinct from emotions) that allow a high degree of predictive accuracy. Those clues can reflect a consistency that helps identify character in the first place, whether it’s an actor on stage, a shopper at the mall, or someone standing in the aisle at the supermarket.

If your marketing feels like too much work, then you are undoubtedly missing the play, the real-life drama that’s being enacted everywhere people walk and breath on the human stage. If you agree, you may want to explore this idea more deeply, and look further inside the characters whom you would like to become your customers. In the near future, it may be what any decent marketer will consider doing: i.e. waking up their inner-bard.

And by the way, when you’re ready to learn more about some advanced tools to better understand your customers at deeper levels than conventional data allows,  you know who to call.

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