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Using Sensory Language and Metaphors to Boost Your Marketing’s Effectiveness


If you were a kid in 1994 or later, then you know what a rainbow tastes like: Skittles. It’s so simple, yet so memorable- Skittles come in a rainbow of colors and flavors. That’s it. One of the simplest metaphor instances, yet it’s stuck with us for over 20 years.

This is the power of metaphors. They make vivid, easy-to-recall images in your head, and they stay there without budging. As a marketing tool, this sticking potential is what every brand is after.

Metaphor 101

A metaphor is a figure of speech that has an implied comparing. Ideas that are not typically pertained are related to one another in order to make a point.

Metaphors are part of figurative( not literal) speech. Figurative language is when common, ordinary or even boring statements are spiced up in engage, creative and emotionally-appealing routes. They’re often exaggerated, but not for the purpose of being dramatic, just to build the phase stronger.

6 Types of Metaphors

There are several different types of metaphors, and familiarizing yourself with them will help you choose the right one( and know which one not to choose- dead metaphor, I’m looking at you ). Let’s explore six different types, along with a few metaphor examples.

There are many more types of metaphors that you can look into, but for the sake of this article, I’ve stick with basic the definitions contained in the metaphor kinds that will be most important to understand for marketing intents.

1. Absolute Metaphors

Absolute metaphors are also called anti-metaphors or paralogical metaphors; they’re not easily understandable and are often confusing. “The old man was dead as a doornail” is an example of an absolute metaphor.

The problem with the absolute metaphor is that it’s not always simple enough.” Dead as a doornail” has been around for long enough that you know this entails” very, super dead ,” even if you have no clue what a doornail has to do with it. Other absolute metaphor examples are trickier to decipher, though.

For example, if I say, “This vacation is a wave pool,” what do I mean? Is my vacation pretending it’s something it’s not- is there some type of falsity to it? Or is it bombarding me with problems every time I solve the last one? Or maybe I’m just spending a lot of time in a wave pond? You have no idea, which induces it a poor metaphor if you’re trying to get a phase across.

2. Dead Metaphors

Dead metaphors have been overused so much they’re now cliche and not nearly as impactful as they once were( you’ll read a lot of them in this article as I give you examples ).” The teenage girl was fishing for compliments” is an example of a dead metaphor.

3. Extended Metaphors

Shakespeare can provide numerous extended metaphor instances, like his “all the world’s a stage” metaphor in As You Like It( read it here) and when Juliet is compared to the sun in Romeo and Juliet. Extended metaphors are lengthy and create more complex comparings than a basic metaphor.

For marketing purposes, you may want to stay away from this. Extended metaphors( and complex metaphors in general) are lengthy and you can easily lose your audience. Plus, it’s hard to recall what you were talking about in the first place once you’re seven innings deep in a athletics metaphor.

4. Mixed Metaphors

Mixed metaphors blend two or more metaphors for comparison’s sake:” He transgressed my heart, but I’m back in the game and soon I’m sure it’ll be raining humen .” Unless you’re doing this on purpose to be funny, steer clear of it.

5. Root Metaphors

Root metaphors are a pervasive part of a person’s viewpoint; they shape or express how a person innately feels. Some of them are dead metaphors, too. “Life is a journey” is an example of a root metaphor that’s also- depending on who you ask- a dead metaphor.

In marketing, you can create your own root metaphor for your brand and use it as a tagline or campaign slogan. This will be especially helpful if you have a cutting-edge product , nothing like anything anyone’s ever seen, that you need to explain in a way that people will relate to.

6. Sensory Metaphors

Sensory language describes an action or scene employing terms that connect to the senses- sight, sound, smelling, savor or touch. The reader feels like they’re experiencing the scene firsthand, which induces it extra memorable. Sensory metaphors use sensory words to construct the comparison.” Your voice is music to my ears” and” that amaze birthday present was the cherry on top” are sensory metaphor examples.

Metaphor: Not a Simile, Kind of an Analogy

Metaphors say that one thing is another thing. Your book is a snore.

A simile employs “as” or “like” to make the comparing. Your book is like a long nap.

An analogy builds comparings on multiple levels. This is similar to an extended metaphor, but an analogy may use a combination of metaphor, similar and sensory speech 😛 TAGEND

How do you perk up a boring volume? Pay attention to the parts that are a snore. Action can wake the reader up, alerting and ready for the next thing that happens.

How to Write Your Own Metaphors

Think about your personal interests or hobbies- it’ll be easier to make comparisons to topics you know inside-out. Do you like cooking, movies, music or athletics? Come up with comparisons to cooking ingredients, movie genres, famous musicians or your sport-of-choice.

Not only will this clarify your comparison, but it’s a non-egotistical way to help your audience get to know you without coming straight out and saying “I like this” or “I hate this.” For instance, if I said, “Freelance writing is a horror movie where every time you think you can take a break, another ogre is waiting around the corner, ” you know that( a) I’m a freelance novelist and( b) I’m a movie fan.

P.S. If you’re developing a brand voice to use in your marketing, choose one or two hobbies to use for all of your metaphors. Make sure it’s something your audience will love. For example, the hosts of The Popcast, a pop culture podcast, use a lot of sports metaphors- it’s in-line with both pop culture and the hosts’ interests.( Knox also refers to people as a bologna sandwich when they’re boring .)

As you’re playing around with ideas and reading metaphor instances, jot down whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s lame, unclear or silly- great writing, especially when it is necessary to short, thought-provoking metaphors, often starts out messy and jumbled.

Visual Metaphors

Metaphors aren’t limited to text, especially if you have a creative graphic design team supporting you. Here are three visual metaphor instances 😛 TAGEND

Be Forewarned

There are “Truth in Advertising” guidelines that companies have to follow. Even if you think a metaphor is harmful, you could end up like Red Bull, having to clarify that the energy drink does not, in fact, cause you to grow wings.

Final Believes

Instead of over-using metaphors, pick and choose which ones you use and when you use them. If an idea or feeling will be better explained through a metaphor, or if you think that a metaphor will make a lighthearted situation more humorous, go for it. You can also A/ B test emails and social media posts to see if the one with the metaphor or the one without gets better engagement.

Speaking of split testing, learn how to do this on your website with Divi.

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