This post was written on 01 Oct 2012 and is filed under Uncategorized.

The Power of Metaphor

If you haven’t watched the video in my last post, go ahead and do it now:
Is It Okay to Be Left Handed?

Seen it? Keep reading.

This ad employs one of the strongest techniques in any writer’s arsenal:
The Power of Metaphor.

Oh… what’s a metaphor, you ask? Click here because I can’t be arsed to explain basic figures of speech.

Metaphors are great at helping you make a point. Trying to explain an unfamiliar idea (or product) to an audience? Metaphors relate an unfamiliar notion to something the audience is already familiar with.

Maybe you’re just trying to reach across a divide and need a way to broach a subject in a new way. Let’s say you’re trying to communicate to a straight audience the effects that offhand comments have on gay teens. If you went full on gay to start with, much of the audience would subconsciously shut off (“This has nothing to do with me”). Instead, the developers of this campaign went about things more strategically. While you’re watching the left hand… the right hand comes up behind you and slaps you in the back of the head with the real message.


Pro Tip: Organic metaphors are the most powerful.

Frame your analogy in terms of something organic. A tree, for example.

Copywriting is like a tree. The roots are…

This technique naturalizes your argument. It subconsciously makes your reader think of your subject in terms of something natural, true, self-evident. Granted left-handedness is just as natural as same-gender love, but left-handedness is a more universal and relatable concept for a wider audience. It’s more self-evidently self-evident.

Organic metaphors are a favoured tool of lawyers and politicians, who have wielded them throughout history for both good and evil.


Bonus Tip: Keep your metaphors simple. And relevant.

Forced metaphors are the strained ribbons of measuring tape on a scientific excursion to study whales in the Arctic Circle. Like their frigid tension, they leave the reader/viewing feeling cold and confused.

Use simple, bold comparisons that your audience will understand.


P.S. – Thank you to the Australian anti-depression non-profit beyondblue and their creative agency for the awesome Left Handed campaign. If you liked the commercial, check out some of their real life stories.


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