Context, Communications and Cleopatra’s Nose

Richard Shotton

Do you think something as trivial as the length of an individual’s nose could change the course of history?

Blaise Pascal did. He famously said: “Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”

Back then a long nose symbolised strength of character and Pascal believed that without that, Cleopatra would have been unable to rule. If she hadn’t been Pharaoh, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony wouldn’t have clashed, and the Roman Empire wouldn’t have been terminally weakened. European history would have taken a different course.

The “Cleopatra’s nose” theory of history suggests that seemingly inconsequential factors can have a profound influence. It’s an important idea for historians, but it is relevant for brands too. Small differences in the context in which we advertise can have powerful effects.

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