Metaphor plays a big role in our everyday speech and in brand thinking. What may appear on the surface to be funny is, in fact, quite a serious proposition.
I love what Bedford Cheese does with its cheese descriptions. This small retailer has two stores: one in Brooklyn and the other in Manhattan. Next to every cheese in the display case is a metaphoric description of its provenance.
They say of Mastorazio (a new sheep’s milk from Italy), “This Lindsay Lohan of the cheese world, this pecorino, has a tan leathery exterior that surrounds a delicate yellow paste with hints of herbs and the aroma of hay. You can almost hear the bleating of Lindsay up in the Italian hills.” Another is for a cheese from California: “Icelandic ponies. Japanese cats on the Internet. Yawning puppies. Toddlers who give each other hugs. Pink and green macaroons. Sparking nail polish. Do you get where I’m going? Cute things. This cheese is so perfect and cute and delicious it makes you feel like you want to marry it.”
To me, this is retail branding of a very high order. It shows in spades what can be done with the simple medium of a glass display case to attract trial. It is romantic and lovely to the eyes and ears—people feel affection for the brand.
Metaphors are more than figures of speech. They are how we make sense of things we want to communicate to others. We can’t shake them because mental models or schemata are the basic components of implicit memory. Metaphors are a kind of shorthand that helps us to rapidly connect and convey mental modes.
Brand names are metaphors in that they quickly convey what a product or service means so we can instantly attach a mood or feeling to them without much thought. We are linguistic pattern-making machines, and, in many ways, brands are products manufactured not in factories but in our own imaginations.
Vivid metaphors are essential to good communication. They make speech highly memorable because they convey a visual experience.
But be careful about overuse, mixing them up and stringing them together in dreadful, overused, clichéd language. As in, “At the end of the day, moving forward, there is a light at the end of the tunnel where we can pick the low-hanging fruit to leverage a doable meeting to get a viable outcome.”
Words count. How you use them says a great deal about whether your brand is a follower, leader, conformist, an original, a thinker or merely trendy.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments below or tweet to us using #HDIMYF (How Does It Make You Feel? is my new book about how emotional brands succeed).