Looking for new ways to create winning marketing messages? Have you ever tried analogies to improve your marketing messages? I’ve long argued that good analogies are a key to delivering a great message.
If you want to effectively build awesome marketing messages, you have to center everything around a story. Put the analogy in the story.
And not just any story, your story.
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Why you ask? Remembering marketing messages well is often difficult, as these words aren’t usually anchored to anything in our experience. Analogies steer these adrift ideas.
But analogies are also hard to construct. They’re a creative act, so there’s no step-by-step which will produce them reliably. Their formation also depends on the powerful insight they are trying to generate. Therefore, a good analogy is often difficult to make when it is needed most.
So to give you a hand, I will share my thoughts on what makes an analogy good. Then, more importantly, I’d like to share some ideas I’ve found to help create them.
What is a good analogy?
A good analogy is a compromise between two conflicting points of views: familiarity and representativeness. Good analogies need to be familiar to be most effective. They express an abstract thought regarding a familiar one. The odometer and speedometer on a car are a good analogy for a function and its derivative because we all understand how speedometers work, but probably not calculus.
Concrete experiences are good sources for analogies because they can be appreciated by anyone. When I say my friend was as quiet as a mouse, that is helpful because you rarely if ever hear a mouse, do you?
But a good analogy doesn’t need to be concrete; it only needs to be expressed regarding an idea you already know well and appreciate. That latter fact is important when creating analogies for yourself. Concreteness is good, but as long as you understand the analogous domain well, anything works.
For example, we compare life to like a box of chocolates. We know a box of chocolates has many varieties and
Good analogies are also representative. They match at least some of the features of the idea you’re trying to explain. More games mean the analogy has more inherent power. Fewer means you need to be careful about applying the analogy to understand new situations.
Making new analogies is like making a key for a lock you haven’t seen before. You’re limited by your experience as to what kind of keys you can make. New key designs take a lot longer to learn than borrowing old ones.
But you also want the key to fit the lock. If the critical shape deviates too much, it won’t open the lock. That’s representativeness.
Marketing messages … how to create analogies
Good analogies are a lot like inventions, aren’t they? You can learn some rules to help dream them up, but ultimately it’s a creative act and can’t be entirely controlled.
Like inventions, the best analogies aren’t invented wholesale but are often built upon the work of others. When you’re learning something abstract, first try to look for other analogies people have generated.
If you can’t find one, you’ll have to create one. Not as easy as borrowing, but there are a few steps to make it easier:
Winning marketing messages … distil your message to the basics and find connections
One exercise you can use to strengthen your analogy skills is to describe what your brand does in as few words as possible. Then review those words or phrases and see if any similar stories or examples come to mind.
Marketing message patterns … use trends as the starting point
If you see an opportunity to make a natural connection between your industry and something that is being talked about in the news today, go for it.
For example, you could play off of themes found in popular movies or television shows that parallel the brand story you are trying to tell, like in this post on How Apple’s story is like ‘Breaking Bad.’
Marketing messages examples … choose analogies that reflect great imagery
If your analogy has some great images associated with it, don’t be afraid to milk them for all they are worth and use those images throughout your brand presence. Is your bank like a mama bird, protecting your customer’s nest eggs and fighting off market fluctuations that threaten their security?
If so, then create an image of a bird mascot that shows us that process, or creates a video that transposes images of how this occurs in nature and how you artificially mimic it.
Effective marketing messages … gather examples
Examples are easier than making imaginative analogies which hop domains. In some areas, they may even be better. I always found philosophy to be more amenable to examples than more cosmopolitan topics which travel beyond their native subject.
Sometimes the analogy is a case. Speedometers aren’t just an analogy of derivatives; that’s what they are! Nothing will be more representative of an idea than an example of the design itself.
Even if you desire a more creative hook to hang your thoughts, examples become a gateway to more original understandings.
Find familiar experiences
Look for a setting or everyday experiences where you might be able to generate one. There are some settings/ experiences for discovering analogies than others.
Here is an excellent example of using familiar experiences. Do you recall watching a quarterback being ‘blindsided’ by an opposing linebacker? Never saw it coming, did he? That is the analogy Terry Bradshaw uses in describing his case of Shingles.
Watch him use the analogy in this commercial. Quite useful, isn’t it?
Terry Bradshaw talks Shingles
Compare and contrast
No analogy is entirely representative unless it is the idea itself. Even examples fail to generalize perfectly, which is why we have abstractions in the first place.
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One way around this is to examine the metaphor more closely. Where does it match the idea? Where does it not? Just doing this exercise will improve your understanding, even if you don’t modify your analogy as a result.
It is always useful to appreciate good analogies like art or inventions. An analogy compromises between familiarity and representativeness, with good analogies choosing just the right amount of the context.
The best analogies not only explain, but they also inspire. They pour color into a featureless void and breathe life into something static. They make the entire subject they cover more beautiful and exciting. Good analogies aren’t just tools; they’re art.
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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