Why Literature Matters in Marketing, Communications, and in Life

Leo Tolstoy—Russian master of the short story and novel, author of such works as War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich—wrote:

Russian author Leo Tolstoy

Russian author Leo Tolstoy

"There can be only one way to fight the general evil of life. It is in the moral, religious, and spiritual perfection of your own life."

A lofty sentiment for sure, but how does this relate to marketing or communications?

Perhaps the first question to ask is 'to what degree do you feel impacted on a daily basis by advertisements, marketing, or any other form of communication whose purpose is to persuade you to pay attention to something someone else wants to show you?'

Then ask how often does this feel good or add to your life, or lead you to feel more authentically connected to people and the world around you?

Many of the ways we engage in commerce depersonalize us. They degrade—or fail to connect in the first place—the bonds that, in the best instances, bind people together. When this is pervasive enough, the world can seem out of control—populated with too many strangers, its pace too fast, filled with far too much chatter of the sort that leaves us empty and beleaguered.

This, to me, means that whatever is happening falls into the category that Tolstoy refers to above—the "general evil of life."

Evil is a strong term, but who among us has not had this feeling—a desire for a world that ran more slowly, where interactions—even in commerce—could be relied on to provide a stronger and more consistent element of the genuinely human? Isn't the absence of this a kind of insult to the goodness that could be cultivated in our interactions with each other?

Moral, religious, and spiritual perfection are high ideals—I'm not even comfortable with the notion of perfection in general, let alone in these areas! But I also believe that goals like these are worthy, and most likely attained in a lifetime's progression of slow, patient, intentional steps.

Authenticity—in other words, honesty with oneself and in one's dealings—seems a cornerstone of all three of those great pillars. Maybe what Tolstoy is saying is that as we go through life as human beings—as people who have relationships, raise children, look after our parents, gather with friends, and who work every day in the world—we can combat the evil of life (one form of which is emptiness), by how we conduct ourselves, and by bringing to our connections our authenticity as human beings.

In the world of commerce, this means never forgetting there is a person on the receiving end of whatever you're doing.

Matt Rigney

April 25, 2014

[Thank you to TolstoyWisdom for today's quote.]