I'm working on the second edition of Everybody Writes.
Which means that I'm watching a lot of Netflix.
I also selected the thickest book I could find from my stash of to-be-read books. It's a good-sized collection, those books. I imagine their hopeful hearts lift a little when I come near—maybe today is the day they'll be cracked open like a walnut, devoured.
The thickest book on the shelf was Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris. It's 576 pages. Perfect. This should take a while.
But within a few pages, David mentions someone's hair is rough-cut, "as if with a steak knife." Then he peels a shrimp "the size of an old-fashioned telephone receiver."
Ugh. I'm trying to procrastinate writing a chapter on analogies and metaphors. And yet here they are. And they're glorious.
I can't not think about metaphors now.
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Analogies aim to make big concepts smaller and more human-sized. Analogies (and their cousins metaphors and similes) share this basic job description:
- Make confusing ideas more accessible
- Put numbers or data in context
- Make the abstract concrete
- Add color in a spare but powerful (and sometimes poetic) way
- Make your ideas memorable
- Create marketing goals related to customer acquisition, lead generation, and revenue
Just kidding on that last job responsibility LOL.
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In Marketing, analogies pack a lot in a tiny overhead bin space.
They can help us explain convoluted ideas or applications more simply. They can help our audiences understand what we do or what we sell.
And (important!) analogies can help us be more memorable.
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How can your analogies, metaphors, and similes delight the pants off your audience?
➡️ Roll your own. Busy as a bee. Like a needle in a haystack. Happy as a clam. These are expressions familiar to most of us.
If this were a quiz show and I dangled a $50 bill in your face, you could probably name 10 more analogies straight off the top of your noggin:
Dead as a doornail. Light as a feather. Heart of gold. Key to success. You call me up again just to break me like a promise / So casually cruel in the name of being honest.
Oops. That last one is actually a Taylor Swift lyric. But also... analogy! (If Analogy held elections, T-Swift would be voted in as President for Life.)
Challenge yourself to come up with analogies that aren't obvious comparisons or clichés.
Gather your belongings and proceed to the next bullet, please.
➡️ Write a picture. You might say you've acquired 842 new accounts in Europe last year.
Better is to put that number into context: If you got representatives from all of your new accounts together, they'd pack to capacity all the cars in the London Eye.
➡️ Consider context. One way to spark less-obvious comparisons is to look at context. Location, industry, topic... all fair game.
Driving from Indianapolis to St. Louis, David Sedaris writes, "Tim's SUV was the size of a Conestoga wagon, an association that made the land seem even flatter than it was."
Beautiful, that analogy.
It conjures up prairies, settlers, westward migration—the Conestoga covered wagon being the Airstream of its day.
Would that comparison have worked were David being driven across Romania or Beirut?
Not as well. You need the SUV to be in the Midwest to make "Conestoga" really... well, land.
➡️ Create an element of surprise. Instead of reaching for a well-worn metaphor, find the connection between two familiar but otherwise disconnected things.
Your job is to explain, sure. But also delight with fresh, unexpected connections.
Instead of: The leaves of the giant pumpkin plant are huge.
Better: The leaves are the size of trash can lids, shading gourds the size of beer kegs.
Why this works: "Huge" is too vague. (Huge like how?) "Trash cans" and "beer kegs" are familiar but also just weird enough in a gardening context.
➡️ Extend the metaphor. If you compare giant pumpkins to beer kegs, work in language that extends the metaphor.
Maybe the giant orange orbs grow so fast that you can almost hear them expanding as if from fermentation gases. Maybe you watch the gardener pour the plant a "shot" of fertilizer, like a bartender might pour a shot glass of Wild Turkey.
Don't overdo it—too many metaphor extensions will start to feel heavy-handed and overwritten. But a related callback or two can ground a metaphor.
As in: 14% of us believe robots will eventually rule the world—that's as many as the entire population of the state of Texas, with a few counties in Oklahoma roped in.
Why this works: "Roped in" invokes cattle, the southwest, Texas, Oklahoma. The analogy is stronger for it.
➡️ Signal belonging. "As big as four football fields" is an okay way to describe something big. It's not very inventive—but at least it's more descriptive than a vague "huge" or "gargantuan."
Yet if you're speaking to a Midwest audience (or were Green Bay in the Superbowl), then get more specific: "As big as four Lambeau Fields, laid end-zone to end-zone." Name names.
Think: What would delight your specific audience? What analogy might signal We get you. You belong here?
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Oh, and by the way? If you have any Netflix recommendations... please don't share them with me. I really need to get cracking on EW2!
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How to overcome writer's block
. I might not believe in Writer's Block. But I can get behind Fuzzy Thinking Obstructions, and Lack of Process Barricades, and a Fear of Bad Writing Bottleneck (via the wonderful Henneke).
A content tool I used this week.
is like Google for rhyming words, if Google went to the Rhyming Gym and jacked itself up on things like searching via number of syllables, meter, beginning letter, and more.
This tool comes from reader James P. Kelly: "I use it for titles and for finding interesting words among synonyms, my most frequently used feature."
My take: I just rhymed guacamole and ravioli. I don't have a use for it now. But you never know.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: A BRAZE NEW WORLD