Monday, April 23, 2012

Advertising lessons from Daniel Defoe.

Over 300 years ago in 1703, Daniel Defoe was--as he was so often in his life--in deep shit. He was not only a bankrupt, he was also a dissenter. Both positions led to pretty severe punishment.

But Defoe didn't take things lying down. Before he was to be pilloried for his religious beliefs (or disbeliefs) he wrote and distributed a broadsheet poem, "A Hymn to the Pillory." It should be said here that being in the stocks was no picnic. Defoe feared it more than he feared prison time in London's notorious Newgate prison.

While you were in the stocks, people would abuse you. They would throw rocks, fruit and other projectiles. They would beat and mock you. And your reputation, once having been cosigned to the pillory was ruined.

His "A Hymn to the Pillory" instead made Defoe a hero. People rallied to him. He wasn't heckled and abused, he was praised and exalted.

Katherine Frank, author of "Crusoe" describes it this way--a way that has bearing to our industry. "The moral of "A Hymn to Pillory"--and indeed of the pillory episode in Defoe's life--was that the Ingenious inherit the Earth. Survivors are those who create in the face of all the dark forces that seek to destroy them--those who, like Defoe, are resourceful, determined and patient. They ride out the roughest storms. They make it to land and, once there, they patiently and creatively make a paradise out of desolate exile, a kingdom out of their captivity."

It seems to me that Defoe presents an example to live by. Use the power of words, the power of your point of view, the power of satire, humor and irony to overcome hardship.

This is what we must do at work and in our work.

You can learn a lot from what happened 300 years ago.

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