The Art of Metaphor: Telling a Story

Man yelling in giant ear

State Farm is the good __________.
Geico, so easy a ________ could use it.
Budweiser, the _____ of beers.

If you can fill in the blanks you know one way business metaphors are used.

Metaphors are part of everyday life. A properly executed metaphor puts the skin and flesh (let’s see how many metaphors I can use when writing about metaphor) onto your mission as a business. A powerful metaphor can help convince a potential customer to use your product, a client to sign on for services for another year and help a new contact quickly engage with your mission and understand how you will help their business.

Are you using strong brand metaphors to help communicate the essence of your business? You should be! Over my first few posts to the 212 Media Studios Blog, I will help us investigate what great metaphors can do for us, how we can identify the right metaphor for our business, and how we can implement these metaphors into the fabric (notice I slipped in another metaphor, I will stop pointing them out and see if you notice them) of your business.

I won’t spend too much time defining metaphor. Go ahead and type “business metaphor” into Google (or Bing, Yahoo) and up will come a variety of ideas, opinions and suggestions. Type in “brand metaphor” and even more good and not-so-good resources will fill your screen. Metaphors are important in everyday life. We might use metaphorical language (our business will fight for you) or direct metaphor (my business wants to be the rock). Properly executed use of metaphor can helps your clients understand what you do and who you are.

So let’s start by developing the a framework to identify what a great metaphor can do.

Building framework

A Great Metaphor…

1. Brings the abstract to the concrete.

All business is not black and white. Sometimes the purpose of your business is not easily communicated through your name or your logo. Your metaphor mixed with other brand essence essentials (i.e. logo, mission, web site etc.) help customers and clients know your identity and establish the “why” they should do business with you.

2. Brings real-life reminders of your business and mission.

If we choose an everyday object as a metaphor, you will allow your client or customer to have a sudden reminder of your mission and importance just by living live. For instance if you are a financial firm who wants to help you grow “deep, strong roots” then when your client passes an oak tree, he/she might think of you, your mission and how you helped. “Out of sight, out of mind” is true in every area of business. The more you can make people see something that will remind them of your business, the more likely they are to do business with you. Make them think about you, a good metaphor can help.

3. Becomes a “measuring stick” (see I used a metaphor) to help you evaluate success.

Your logo, your colors, your letterhead help create qualitative expectations of your business delivery of services. A well-executed metaphor will provide a quantitative (measurable) element to your work. A metaphor will provide a gridwork from which an evaluation your products and services can be developed. Your customer and clients will ask, “Does this product or service fulfill the mental expectations that were created by the metaphor?”

Next time we will look how to choose the right metaphor for your business.

Nate Manahan
Nate Manahan
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