This week we’re taking a journey through time and uncovering some of the greatest, yet most unexpected marketing lessons from some of history’s most influential thinkers, philosophers, and leaders.

You may not realize it now, but there is so much we can learn from leaders like Socrates and Oprah and Cleopatra. Much of what they would consider their mantra has a ton of implications on marketing today.

In episode 141 of the Science of Social Media, Brian and Hailley break down concepts like the Socratic Method, transparency, rhetoric, and lots more.

8 Unexpected Marketing Lessons from History’s Most Influential Leaders

What follows is a detailed summary of the episode transcript. Feel free to jump around and explore each of these top marketing lessons from history’s most influential leaders in this week’s Science of Social Media:

1. Aristotle
2. Socrates
3. Oprah Winfrey
4. Abraham Lincoln
5. Catherine the Great
6. Martin Luther King Jr.
7. Cleopatra
8. Eleanor Roosevelt

Let’s dive in!

1. Aristotle

One of the most well-known philosophies of the Greek philosopher, Aristotle (born in 384 BC), is his idea of persuasion, otherwise known as rhetoric.

He breaks down persuasion into the three categories: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos.

These three concepts can be valuable for content marketers, writers, and bloggers. After all, isn’t persuasion one of the most important parts in marketing?

Logos: The application of logic in efforts to persuade. Logos tries to persuade an audience using logical arguments and supportive evidence.
Pathos: Playing to human emotions. Using anecdotes and stories, marketers can connect with their audience, adding a human element to content.
Ethos: The concept of ethics. It works off the idea that it is impossible to persuade anyone of anything if you’re not credible.

You must establish your credibility and reputation as a writer. This is done through personal branding and your ability to build a following. Ideally this would results in brand building and thought leadership.

2. Socrates

Next up on our list of marketing lessons from historical leaders, born 90 years before Aristotle, is Socrates.

Those that took a middle school science class learned about the Socratic Method. The Socratic Method is used in asking questions and posing theories to investigate and to stimulate the foundation of new ideas.

The Socratic Method applies to the interactive aspect of marketing. Get your readers involved by asking them questions or looking for their ideas on certain issues and engage them with interactive content.

Invite your audience to engage in a lively debate. Actively involve them in your marketing process so that your team can generate new product ideas, marketing campaigns, and content topics based on the feedback you’ve received directly from the people that matter most.

Most of all, don’t forget that the Socratic Method applies internally as well. Your team should be debating and questioning trends, norms, traditions, and ideas at all times.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey has built much of the rapport she has with fans by being honest throughout her career.

Oprah stayed true to herself and was honest to her audience through ups and downs. She also held her guests to this standard as well – ensuring that honesty was always the number one priority.

The benefit of this honesty and transparency in marketing is that it helps to build trust with your customers. Think of all of the brands that create a memorable customer experience by being genuine, human and transparent.

A modern social media strategy demands authenticity and being transparent is something you can’t ignore. That is one of the most important marketing lessons Oprah has taught us from her success.

4. Abraham Lincoln

As the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln became famous primarily because of his contributions to the abolition of slavery and the American Civil War. But aside from his political and human rights achievements, Lincoln is also known for his oratory skills.

He has articulated some of the most memorable lines throughout his political career. In fact, his Gettysburg Address in 1863 became the most quoted speech in US history.

His words live on as we apply them in the perspective of marketing, particularly when it comes to planning and preparation.

Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”

Marketers should understand that the more time spent on preparation, the less work they have to do in executing.

In addition, Lincoln taught us that it’s not about the amount of hours you work or the number of projects you launch, it’s about the quality of those hours and projects.

Focusing on fewer, but more impactful projects and campaigns will improve your brand’s results and most likely make you more successful in your career as well.

5. Catherine the Great

One of the most influential political leaders of the Eighteenth Century, Catherine the Great was said to have played an important role in improving the welfare of Russian serfs.

She placed emphasis on the arts and helped to cement Russia as one of the dominant countries in Europe.

Catherine the Great is a shining example to modern marketers that it often takes incredible courage to make your vision come true.

In Catherine the Great’s time, smallpox was a terrible problem throughout what is now the united kingdom and Russia. Catherine heard of the new inoculation treatments in England and risked the entire dynasty to travel and get her and her son inoculated.

We know that creativity requires original thinking and transcending traditional ideas, yet we’re so inundated with incoming information, that it becomes harder and harder to truly think for ourselves.

6. Martin Luther King Jr.

Very few people in American history are as celebrated as Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister and social activist who led the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

When examining King from a marketing perspective, he teaches us that not only carefully crafting, but truly believing in and embodying your brand message is critical for people to buy into what you’re saying.

As marketers, it’s only when we truly believe in our message and stand behind it 100% that can it be successful.

Carefully crafting your message is time well spent and pays ten-fold in the long run.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is world-famous still today. We might compare that world-famous effect with going viral. Messages that are particularly well-crafted spread like wildfire throughout the Internet.

The marketing lessons bestowed from MLK Jr. include saying what you want to say as quickly and clearly as you can.

Use words everyone understands. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech isn’t an hour long or even 30 minutes. It’s 17-minutes in total and something that changed the course of history forever.

7. Cleopatra

One of the more interesting, yet fairly unknown historical leaders on our list is Cleopatra. C

Cleopatra ruled ancient Egypt for almost three decades. Well-educated and clever, Cleopatra could speak 6 different languages and was known as a strong and charismatic ruler. During her reign, she forged political alliances with Roman military leaders Julius Caesar and Mark Antony – which helped to hold many regions together over decades.

In terms of marketing lessons, Cleopatra had an incredible knack for seeing the bigger picture.

As marketers it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day: writing articles, posting to social media, analyzing our efforts, and everything that comes with the role.

Sometimes we forget to look up and ask: “why”? Why are we doing this? How does what we’re doing at this moment contribute to the greater goal?

We need to understand how our tactics relate to the strategy and matching our behavior to that understanding.

8. Eleanor Roosevelt

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt is a perfect example of a leader that practiced creative innovation – including helping redefine and shape the role of the First Lady.

She not only participated in radio broadcasts, she also authored a daily syndicated column, held press conferences to discuss women’s issues, and was an active supporter of civil rights policies and New Deal social-welfare programs.

Her ability to redefine expectations is a reminder that great marketers always look for opportunities to break the mold. To get to the next level in marketing, we must think outside the box to what seems unimaginable.

Make space to think. Make space to challenge assumptions. Make space to break things.

So what is it that you hope to accomplish? Does it seem too big or too scary to do?

We hope you challenge that notion and set your goals as high as they can go.

How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Hailley on Twitter and Hailley’s Website
Brian on Twitter and Brian’s Website

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

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About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

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