Lao Tzu could be a marketing icon

character symbol for path

Chapter One of the Tao Te Ching (translation by Amy Putkonen)

The Tao that can be told is not the Eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the Eternal Name.

Nothingness is the Origin of Heaven and Earth.
Beingness is the Mother of the Ten Thousand Things.

When you are free of desire, you will understand the Essence of your life.
When you identify with your desires, you will observe the manifestations of your life.

Both contain the deepest secrets arising from the dark unknown, the Doorway to the Mysteries of Life.

character symbol for path
Amy Putkonen created this character illustration, meaning PATH. It seemed a fitting image for this blog post. Thanks for sharing, Amy!

I could learn a lot from Lao Tzu concerning concise writing. We all could learn a lot about creating a persuasive and timeless message. None of us could hope to fully express in words what’s going on in another person’s mind’s-eye (or even our own). But, reading and pondering material that is compelling over millenniums is a sure way to gain a better grasp on how to reach others with marketing ideas in a way that’s relevant to them.

Granted, some of the chapters in the Tao Te Ching are a struggle for me to understand (and it’s doubtful I’ll ever reach that nirvana level of existence to fully live the message). Still (perhaps Lao Tzu is rolling over in his grave on this one), I’ve found some incredible tidbits over the decades to highlight public speaking points or draw from in promotional messages. More importantly, though, I’ve been able to adopt some philosophies expressed in the Tao to make my life more meaningful.

It’s the last three lines in Chapter One that really grab me. Recently, I did a blog post on how I believe we’re moving away from the consumerism that’s been the mantra of government and focus of advertising in the United States for more than 50 years. Marketing messages promising increased stature, wealth without work or happiness that comes without giving back will become less effective. I’m seeing a trend with mature adults too toward leaner living and more meaningful lives that are more about making a difference than collecting possessions.       

Purging the mind of desires (and life of possessions) can certainly be liberating. There’s something about the little things that can bring more enjoyment than we often realize. Just yesterday a friend who can no longer taste or smell (due to a vicious attack) mentioned grilled cheese sandwiches as one of the foods she misses most. Not steak, or lobster or herb-seasoned delicacies; nor the subtleties of a vegetable medley or sweet and sour sensations. When it’s all gone, what’s important will usually surprise you.

Better marketing ideas for today

Imagine if Lao Tzu were writing copy for an agency today (although he might be more adept at writing the legal disclaimer). Crafting a message that recognizes each person experiences life individually could be the start of some very powerful campaigns. Talking about the usefulness of what’s not there could certainly turn some heads. The paradox of presenting an entire book on a concept that can’t be put to words makes the stretch to modern day advertising executive not so far fetched – or at least good for a chuckle. Now imagine if you were on his team. What a wonderful education that would be!

Why not pick up a copy of the Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (Perennial Classics) (it’s a short read, but certainly not a quick one)? What you garner from this tome could not only have a significant impact on your life satisfaction, but also help you create more connected and meaningful ways to communicate with methods that have stood the test of time.           

As an interesting aside, Amy put out a challenge to her blog readers to talk about Chapter One of the Tao Te Ching. My first reaction when I saw a number cite this as a weekly challenge (Amy said no such thing in this post) was that people don’t look (or read, or listen) before they leap.

Then it occurred to me these may be individuals that had the benefit of a side conversation with Amy where she indicated a desire to make this a weekly event. Perspectives . . . you can’t predict what another’s may be – but you can always be more satisfied (and positive) avoiding conclusions and operating with an open mind.

Of course, reading what you’re responding to and proofing your posts isn’t a bad idea either.Lao Tzu might say quality writing standards are unimportant (along with the written word – I do appreciate irony) but I’ve encountered few books more tightly edited than the Tao. Its more important to note what people do over what they say. If your goal is to build credibility and reach, assume everything matters.   

5 responses to “Lao Tzu could be a marketing icon”

  1. I have both the book and the CD’s of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts Change Your Life, living the Wisdom of the Tao. I do believe that the Tao is a life time study much like A Course In Miracles.

  2. Hi Nanette,

    This is great. I so love reading how other people perceive this work. What a treat! You are correct that I did not mention it as a weekly challenge in my post and perhaps I am a bit insane to suggest such a lengthly and long-winded challenge, but yes. It is a weekly challenge and week 2 was posted yesterday.

    I love how you weave things together. Imagining Lao Tzu as an advertising person is a bit to me like imagining the Dalai Lama in a shopping mall. I get a smile just thinking about it. But perhaps Lao Tzu would find this challenge a good one in order to share another perspective on where we want to “spend” our energy.

    I love what you said about the changing trend in consumerism. That is certainly true for me. My eyes have been opened to the waste that surrounds me and I am finding that just bringing more waste into my life is not where I want to be. I have even gone as far this summer to sign up for a CSA so that I can have food brought to me straight from the farm and skipping all the packaging and delayed nutrition that comes from it sitting in a store. I am very excited about this new culinary adventure.

    Thanks as always for being who you are, Nanette. You are a true classic.

    • I should add that this “weekly challenge” does not need to be completed by all the same people each week! My hope is that each week we may have a new blend of people who step up to the plate and try their hand at commenting on this beautiful prose.

      • I hope so too. It would get boring, I suppose, if you just had a few in the core who participated in lock-step :-). It’s a great idea. If you can get more people to stretch outside of the ‘faithful’ (I consider myself in this group) I think this could be a lot of fun for all – not to mention a great awareness building campaign.

    • Yes, I saw ‘week two’ of the challenge featured in your post on Tuesday and figured I was confused about how I read (and re-read) your post. Thanks for letting me know I wasn’t losing my mind :-). I can’t participate weekly, but will jump in on occasion as I have time and some creative input to add.

      Oh yes – I chuckled out loud as I imagined Lao Tzu as a advertising executive (or rep), but could still see it. Maybe that speaks to how strange my mind sometimes works.

      I know you did a post recently on consumerism too (more from an energy depletion standpoint than trending behavior) and really enjoyed the TED video included in this post. It will be interesting to hear how this CSA participation works for you (they all are so different in how they provide variety and convenience). Better yet, plant your own :-).

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