Poetry is an extremely emotive way to tell stories. A poem works under our mind’s peripheral layers, at more subconscious levels. This penetrating quality of a poem comes from how it’s almost unadulterated emotion. Poetry is using emotions to tell a story in all honesty; a poem never explains, it rather makes you feel the story. Poetry triggers emotions through careful disposition of words. It maps a story that can only be felt rather than get ‘understood’ through information. We know how important emotions are in decision-making and memory. Like Maya Angelou said, ‘someone may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel’. This is the strength of a poem; and this is also where poetry and commercial storytelling begin to convene.
Poetry is a feeling-first artform. You work in the dark with your eyes closed, but your heart wide open. And, this is precisely why the heart also becomes the place where poetry meets the reader. For businesses that want to establish loyalty, intimacy and deep connection, poetry is a great way to communicate.
Poems can trigger mental imagery, musical sounds and even a sense of place. A poem is an experience with the potential to surround and immerse. Ask a poet and they would tell you that poetry has a strict economy of words and a very precise geometry. Poetry is not description, nor is it definition; it’s pure emotion—like painting with words. But, it’s heavily reliant on language and culture, leaning into the subtleties and nuances of both. For businesses that want to connect through emotions, poetry is a fantastic artform to consider; but, remember that it works best with a niche audience identified by language and cultural connection. For example, we created the poem below for the Colombo based sari retailer Rithihi; it was a story which focused on a product with an unusually striking colour; it worked as a way to draw attention to what made the product so desirable, in connection to emotions; it used scenarios and memories that the closely identified target audience which was geographically and culturaly mapped out with the client.
The Sunday white walls,The blue glass sky,
And the only man walking slowly down the narrow sea road,
All barely alive.
The cat, the houses, and the street
Have all been put to sleep
In a warm, comfortable defeat
From the April heat.
But, the pink bougainvilleas!
Oh, those pink bougainvilleas!
They’re ringing dangerously wild,
Like laughter in the wind.
Another situation where we used a poem to communicate value was when promoting the popular surf town Kabalana, Ahangama. Although Ahangama is the current it-town in Sri Lanka’s south coast, it wasn’t always the case. A few years ago, when this poem was made to capture the wonder of the area, only a few retailers, restaurants and resorts that had recognised potential were set up there. With our creative safe house, and first-ever real estate investment being based there, we had vested interest in promoting the area. This poem was written to evoke a sense of fantasy in connection to Kabalana, Ahangama. It aims to transport the reader and create a dream-like render or nostalgia for this place that we wanted more people to visit and experience. We drew inspiration from what makes the place interesting, as well as the folklore connected to the Deep South.
There’s a morning worth waking up to; but, it’s lost in the southern sky behind the Kabala trees.And, you wonder what makes the peacocks cry the way they do; in a sound between laughter and sorrow, otherworldly and wild
as they walk through the trees and the sun
in pairs of sisters or newfound lovers.
An old man who lives across the street says that peacocks belong with the spirit of the old god Kadira; A warrior turned forest-dweller, turned ascetic, turned deity.The old man is from the land and the sea—so he must be right.
The ocean and the sunset are laws you learn to instinctively follow, when you're living in the Deep South.
There's something about showering under the palms.
There's something about walking under the stars.
There’s something about sitting between the trees with your heart held out.
There’s something about Kabalana days.
When a business uses poetry in its communication, it engages the audience directly through emotions, and this is great; But, is poetry for all brands? We don’t think so. When we work with clients, we first work out the framework of the business persona or before we get into creating any stories. Depending on the outlined brand personality and voice, we create stories that would be appropriate for the client’s company, and have resonance with the identified target audience.
Poetry is not for every audience, nor brand. Is your brand an emotive one, or a more cerebral one? Does your audience have an affinity towards literature and the arts? What emotional ranges do they enjoy? Does your business have a prominent Lover archetype in its persona? These are some of the questions you can answer before using poetry in your brand stories.
In our story design process, we consider a few carefully chosen theories in human persona-based archetypes, aesthetics, and design thinking. When incorporating emotions into stories, we use the aesthetic theory of ‘Rasa’. Rasa is defined closest in English as ‘emotional flavour’ contained in a creative work—it’s not what’s mentioned outright or described, but rather, evoked in the minds of the audience through a deliberate trigger of emotions.
If you’d like to find out more about how we use Rasa theory emotions to create compelling stories for businesses, read our short guide to using the Rasa theory as a brand storytelling tool and why emotions are a cornerstone in our story design process.