How To Use Metaphors In Branding

Apr 7, 2015 | Brand Messaging

Metaphors are powerful communication devices in branding. They act as a lens to get people to consider ideas or concepts in new ways.

Phrases like Acid Rain, Permission Marketing, or Organic Foods are packed with meaning. The pairing of words creates a metaphor that shapes understanding and expectations. And this approach is equally effective in branding.

How do you describe your brand:

Your brand is [insert metaphor]
Your brand is like [insert simile]

The addition of a metaphor or a simile adds context to your brand. It creates a mental picture that helps to make your brand easier to understand, easier to talk about, and easier to share.

Place the Metaphor First

Where you place a metaphor influences its impact. A metaphor placed too late is basically useless.

Whole Foods, for example, leads with the phrase “natural and organic foods.” This is their lens. Everything they do positions off natural and organic, and this shapes our understanding of the brand and what they deliver.

The positioning of “natural and organic foods” is important. If Whole Foods were to say, “We are a grocery store with over 365 locations globally. We sell over 3,300 products, and they are all natural and organic.” The impact of the metaphor is lost.

Metaphors are only persuasive in branding when you lead with them. If you place the metaphor at the middle or end of your argument they have little to no impact.

Repetition Creates Comfort

Using your metaphor once isn’t enough either. Repeat it over and over again. The more you use it the more effective it will become.

A good way to understand the power of repetition is to consider your favorite song. How many times have you listened to the song? Probably hundreds or thousands of times. This repetition is powerful. You know the lyrics and the tune, but more importantly the song is intrinsically linked with moments in your life. The song has been with you repeatedly, and that’s part of what makes it so appealing and comfortable for you.

The same is true for your brand. The more you use the metaphor, the more it will be associated with your brand.

If we return to our Whole Foods example. They use the words “natural” and “organic” everywhere. Whole Foods leads with the phrases and repeats them consistently, and that repetition creates comfort and trust. We know where the brand fits in the marketplace and what it delivers.

Own the Metaphor

Your metaphor can become integral to your brand positioning. “Your brand is …”

Fill in the blank. What metaphor best describes your brand? What phrase or description do you want your customers to associate with your brand?

Take this brand and own it. Lead with it and repeat it over and over again.

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Jeremy Miller

Top 30 Brand Guru

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