Content Marketing

Write Like Shaw and Your Marketing will Never be a Pygmalion

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Superficiality will get you nowhere these days.

Pretending to be something you’re not isn’t good for anyone. It’s also not good for brands or the consumers that put their trust in them. Marketing is about making promises and it can be quite tempting to oversell a product. But writers can create content that makes them look like marketing geniuses if they take a little time to emulate George Bernard Shaw.

George Bernard Shaw (July 26, 1856 – November 2, 1950) was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although he wrote many things, his best talent was for drama. In fact, he is the only person to have been awarded both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Oscar. He wrote more than 60 plays, including Pygmalion which many people would more readily recognize from the film adaptation, retitled “My Fair Lady.”

In this story, Prof. Henry Higgins makes a bet that he can train a lower-class Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, to pass for a duchess at an ambassador’s party by teaching her to feign refinement. The ruse was a success, he took all the credit and made her angry. She, at heart still the same waif she had been before the flowery language and fancy threads, left in a huff. There’s a love triangle woven in there somewhere, too, but the part of the story to be discussed here is its exploration of language use and its concept of trying to pretend something is what it isn’t.

Like Eliza, one cannot just clean up a product or service and dress it in fancy language to make it sell. If it doesn’t align with the brand’s true nature, eventually consumers will figure that out. All that deceptive talk will only cause people to disbelieve any promises made about it in the future. At the same time, brands need to be able to express themselves for what they are in such a way that is attractive to customers.

Unlike the female character in his play, Shaw truly was a refined master of language. Whenever he wrote, he did his research. He wasn’t afraid to consult with people who knew more than him, in this case some of the greatest phonetecists of the day, in order to make sure that what he was writing had integrity, while also being compelling to the reader.

Approaching your brand’s content marketing in a similar manner can increase potential buyer trust, increase lead generation and produce more sales. Do your research before you start writing! Consult credible resources related to your industry to find the most accurate and up-to-date information. Learn everything you can regarding the ins and outs of the topic at hand.

Then, like Shaw, weave it into a creative and informative narrative that attracts the readers’ attention. No fluff pieces here, today’s consumer wants something more than empty promises. Make sure that if anyone digs a little deeper into what you have to say that they don’t find your fancy duchess is really just an Eliza Doolittle in disguise.

As evident when comparing content marketing growth to traditional advertising, consumers are being more discerning about how they make their purchases. They want to know more about the brands they’re buying and are not happy when they feel they have been deceived. By writing like a Shaw, not only will you not have to worry about being mistaken for something you’re not, you could become a refuge for the consumers dissatisfied with the promises made by your competition.

What famous non-marketer writers do you admire? Do they influence your writing style?