Why you shouldn’t be afraid of metaphors

Many people are scared to use metaphors. Sometimes rightly.

An over-used, too familiar metaphor is brushed aside and quickly ignored by a reader.

But done correctly, a metaphor is like the first sip of a cold beer on a hot summer’s day…hitting the spot perfectly.

And don’t think their use is a recent phenomenon necessitated because of today’s skim and scan reading in a digitally-oriented world.

Aristotle, way back in 322 B.C. Made the following observation of when a comparison is made between two seemingly unrelated objects without using “like’ or “as”.

“The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor. It is the one thing that cannot be learned from others; it is also a sign of genius, since a good metaphor implies an eye for resemblance.”

Metaphors are also much more popular that you might imagine. (As stated in James Geary’s e-book by Harper Collins, 2011, I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and the Way it Shapes the Way we See the World).

“Researchers have discovered we use a metaphor every ten to twenty-five words. That adds up to about six metaphors a minute.”

Our minds, our language, our craving for a good story is embodied in the use of metaphor, and this is why they should be used in any persuasive message.

The scientific reasoning is shown in brain scans while people listen to descriptions, with and without the use of metaphors.

Among many studies is one by neurologist Krish Sathian of Emory University. His findings clearly show that, as expected, our brains can interpret the literal meaning of an expression. When that expression is also a metaphor it triggers the sensory perception part of our brain.

Using a metaphor is therefore like getting two bangs for your buck – the abstract meaning, reinforced by our brain translating the metaphor. We also have a neural lighting-up response in the touch, taste, hearing or seeing parts of our brain that respond to that metaphor.

What is means for persuasive messages to maximise their potential is that you or your copywriter should hunt down, play with, break apart and put back together word combinations that create a pictureable image.

It means you have to really use your brain-power and be more than prepared to scrap the first and second and third good idea for a metaphor that comes to you.

After all, complex is easy, simple takes some time.

However, from a message, from a story-telling point-of-view, the metaphorical effort is worth it.

It is exactly like that first sip of beer, after you’ve worked really hard, when you sit down to enjoy it.

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