Yes. Poetry made a surprising start to 2021. At the U.S. inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice-president Kamala Harris, it was a young poet, Amanda Gorman, with the power of her beautifully crafted words, who practically stole the show and was talked about around the world. Is it time for a more poetic sensibility to take hold in our communications? Can new voices and inspiring poets write and right some wrongs? Perhaps it’s time for brand poetry vs. brand messaging; whether your brand is a product/service, a country or a cause. In an age of rampant disinformation, words matter. The nuance and interpretation of language matters. Can we craft poetic language to inform, inspire, invoke, interpret and involve versus manipulating language to interrupt, misinterpret and incite?
I look at poetry as an art form in itself, but also as a metaphor for a deeper form of expression that invites thoughtful contemplation, further examination, wonder, curiosity and a call to action. It could be a song – think of how relevant the lyrics to “This land is your land/this land is my land” is in 2021; consider what Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now means to two different sides of the generational spectrum; or imagine what multiple interpretations Lin-Manuel Miranda’s lyrics “I’m not giving away MY SHOT” from Hamilton might conjure up right now. Poetry might be found in a work of art that reveals the inhumanity of war and provokes conversation, like Picasso’s Guernica. Poetry has revealed itself in classic and current cinema. Think how artistically and poignantly Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, or this year’s Nomadland written and directed by Chloe Zhao, can make you re-examine life and humanity itself.
Using a variety of art forms for brand introspection combined with societal exploration, have been with us for generations. Coca-Cola’s ‘Hilltop’ commercial reinterpreting the Seeker’s
I’d like to teach the world to sing can be viewed as cultural appropriation and brand bravura or pop culture genius. And when Mad Men used it as its television series denouement, we wondered and discussed its influence all over again.
Andy Warhol blurred the lines between art, culture and commerce with his homage to the Campbell’s soup can and Ben & Jerry’s poetic and socially charged ice-cream flavors add relevance, surprise and value. And this year two very different brands, Vocal (a media platform for story sharing) and Moleskine (everyone’s favorite high-end notebook brand) joined forces to “create a fiction story challenge about someone who comes into a large sum of money, involving a mysterious little black book.” Top prize is $20,000. Creative brand engagement at its best.
In my opinion, it’s time for all of us, whether we are brand advocates, CEOs, entrepreneurs, environmentalists or politicians; idealists or pragmatists, to reimagine and rediscover the power of language, art, film and music – poetic expression in all its many forms, to change minds and sometimes even change the world.
As Amanda Gorman said in her poem:
“For there is always light. If only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
And that’s why “Poetry” is at the top of my Thought Wave list.