become a master of metaphor and multiply your marketing effectiveness

become a master of metaphor and multiply your marketing effectiveness

reader comments (76)

  1. so right. i try to use this when sharing complex ideas with clients. a good metaphor paints a picture your reader (or listener) can grasp instantly. dishing up the same information in word form is an invitation to nap.

    on the other token, i love it when newspeople mix their metaphors.
    ~;>)

  2. marc, i want to make sure that i comprehend one of your statements:
    “dishing up the same information in word form is an invitation to nap.” are you saying that metaphors bore the reader?
    if so, i disagree. i believe that written metaphors stimulate the reader and keep the writing more interesting. if i misunderstood you, will you please clarify your comment? thanks!

  3. sorry robert, that was confusing.

    i just meant that using metaphor to inject an concept quickly into your reader’s mind is far more effective than massaging them to sleep with a torrent of words.

    but that is “just the tip of the ice cube.”
    ~;>)

  4. brian,

    can a person learn to apply the principles you teach (or some of them) without even thinking about it, or is it always an effort?

    i do think about my writing, but find it difficult to determine whether it is well written or not.

  5. armen, it comes more naturally the more you write. that’s why the best advice i can give you is to try to apply this stuff in your own writing, and write as often as you can.

    • in my opinion it is also something that comes natural.
      i.e. in amsterdam we’re big fans of comparing; we speak in similes and metaphors in daily conversation.

      on the other hand if you get used to it, the risk of using it too often is bigger. in that case it’ll start to look like rambling in writing, which offcourse will result in boring the hell out of your readers. 🙂

      anyhow, good point. diving it to your followup articles right now!

  6. it’s important to note the difference between a metaphor and its (arguably) less powerful cousin the simile. similes are pretty easy to identify since they use ‘like’ or ‘as’ to make the comparison between two things.

    to take one of the examples from the post:

    metaphor: a blanket of snow fell last night.
    simile: last night’s snow was like a blanket covering everything.

    i think the original poster gets the difference … but drops the ball in the final line with:

    “… even if your vocabulary is as bad as, like, whatever.”

    … which is clearly a poor simile and not an ugly metaphor.

    great post though and sorry to be picky!

  7. hey peter, this post is the first in a series, and the next installment differentiates between metaphor, simile and analogy.

    and rather than “dropping the ball,” everything about the closing joke was intentional, and it’s not even a proper simile. 😉

  8. i got that it was a joke! i’m really looking forward to this series on metaphor, so excited in fact, that i was inspired to comment for the first time! thank you for all your valuable tips and lessons, your blog is a frequent resource for me.

  9. have you ever read aristotle? i’m pretty sure he could not be counted as a great writer. most of what he wrote was only half-finished and in note form.

    this is not to say that he was a poor thinker; he’s ideas and observations are very much applicable in today’s world. however, calling him a great communicator is an elephant of an exaggeration. special thanks should go to the translators for making aristotle comprehensible.

  10. great series–i’m sure your readers will greatly benefit from a succinct primer on metaphor, simile, and analogy. i did my dissertation on using it skillfully in developing the branding and communication strategies for complex, “really new” products and services. but understanding at least the basics is critical for converting casual surfers into a commited congregation of devotees–and we all know “stickiness” is make or break for long-term blogging success.
    thanks also for reminding me that i need to pick up miller’s book to see how she’s distilled the key concepts for marketing and pr contexts.

    p.s. gotta love the chicago trib blurb for her book–“metaphors are communication home runs. this book shows you how to hit them.”

    your readers who are interested in more depth from one of the top academics studying metaphorical thought as opposed to just language might want to read works by george lakoff such as more than pure reason or metaphors we live by. (they’re fairly accessible to a general audience)

  11. wonderful stuff brian. actually i really love it when trainers or writers use metaphors to explain concepts easily!

  12. from politics and the english language: “never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure or speech which you are used to seeing in print”.

    the point (i think): even metaphors can become hackneyed, and consequently lose their value.

  13. the quote from aristoteles is not a bad opener, but i believe this one would have served you well as your closing argument by underlining that regardless how great metaphors are they cannot stand alone: “imagination could hardly do without metaphor, for imagination is, literally, the moving around in one’s mind of images, and such images tend commonly to be metaphoric. creative minds, as we know, are rich in images and metaphors, and this is true in science and art alike. the difference between scientist and artist has little to do with the ways of the creative imagination; everything to do with the manner of demonstration and verification of what has been seen or imagined.” robert a. nisbet

  14. what about the distinction between a tired metaphor and something new or an old one with a twist?

    “old hat” metaphors, or those that have become cliched, bear the danger of having a reader’s brain gloss right over the impact point – metaphors are best used to call attention to a point so you have to grab the reader. give them something that their mind doesn’t immediately jump to, stop them in their tracks so they can say “wait a minute…oh, i see.”

    just a thought!

  15. are there any sample extended metaphors in here? metaphors describe somethings rather exaggeratedly yet are enjoyable than saying ,’she fell.’
    instead say that ,’she was trash that slipped its way out of the bag onto the unbreakable driveway.’ ok. kind of lame but i think you get my point.

  16. i was so excited about these ideas that i only gave credit to the person (kevin tan) who’s link led me here. unfortunately i neglected to give the credit where it’s really due to (brian clark) the author. my apologies.
    rick clark

  17. good site, great advice, writing is a skill like any other that will improve with practice, even the most gifted authors continue writing in order to get better at it. i’ve had dreams of writing for a long time and started out by visualising the story but never got to writing anything down. my head is full of stories, the hesitation to write things down is because you wonder if others will find your writing interesting. anyway i started blogging in november last year and it’s a great way of expressing creativy and honing my skills. another skill that improves writing is reading!

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