Hopefully I’ve sold you on the benefits of using metaphors when creating compelling content, and you know the differences between metaphors, similes, and analogies.
Now let’s take a look at five examples of how you can use metaphorical expressions to spice up your writing.
Metaphors can turbo-charge just about any element of an article, from the title down to the close. You might even design entire pieces of content marketing for small businesses around an ongoing metaphorical theme.
Imagine yourself blazing quickly through your news app or email inbox.
Article titles and subject lines whiz by in a blur of mundane language, until you hit a heading that stops you dead in your tracks and plants a visual in your brain that prompts you to investigate further.
That’s the power of metaphor in a headline.
For examples of titles that employ both metaphor and descriptive beneficial copy, one only has to look at best-selling business books:
- Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
- Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide
- Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant
Perhaps you avoided metaphor in your headline, but want to open strong by creating an engaging visual representation in the reader’s mind. Use a metaphor to suck people into the body of your content.
Here’s an example from Anne Miller’s Metaphorically Selling that begins an examination of the dot com bust and resulting economic downturn:
“In Arizona there’s an old graveyard known as Boot Hill where lots of slow-on-the-draw gunslingers are buried. One of the headstones reads ‘I knew this was going to happen, but not so soon.’
“The same could be said about the U.S. economy, which has gone through a wrenching contraction. I don’t know anyone who thought the hyperbole of 2000 could last, but no one thought things would drop as fast as they did.”
One might even make an entire post metaphorically themed, from the headline through the close.
In Stefanie’s post, How to Write 16 Knockout Articles When You Only Have One Wimpy Idea, she uses multiple metaphors to compare creating winning content over time to training to be a boxing champ.
You can see how a theme was created around a simile in Weak Email Marketing and Nickelback Have Less in Common than You Might Think.
You know that you should back up your beneficial promises and assertions with hard data and specific facts when attempting to persuade.
Nothing speaks louder than the numbers, and yet the full force and effect of those numbers is often lost on the reader. Metaphors make the numbers relevant, concrete, and memorable.
- How much is a trillion dollars? It’s a stack of thousand dollar bills 67 miles high. (Ronald Reagan’s early 1980s illustration of the national debt — that stack is significantly higher today.)
- We lose one acre of rainforest every second. Imagine a giant invader from space, clomping across the rainforests of the world with football-field-size feet — going boom, boom, boom every second — would we react? That’s essentially what’s going on right now. (Al Gore’s vivid characterization of rainforest loss.)
Metaphors make for great closers because, when well constructed, they provide powerful summaries and clear recommendations.
If applicable, you can follow up with a specific call to action that tells your reader what to do next.
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Reader Comments (28)
Joanna Young says
Another great post – I love the way you practice what you preach! One question though, are there any risks in picking metaphors that will only be meaningful to some sections of your readership? Basketball analogies for example are a bit wasted on most people on this side of the Atlantic… but I guess there are lots of readers who just aren’t that into sport anyway. Are there any metaphors you’d suggest writers steer clear of?
Brian Clark says
That’s the next post, Joanna. 😉
LOL – I can’t do much anymore without being called out for linkbaiting 🙂
I actually read that post shortly after writing it. Very nice piece – metaphors really go a long ways sometimes. I just wanted to SOMEHOW incorporate the awesomeness of the pistons into a post actually. I had thought about it during the last game, but it came out as I was watching Chauncey and crew throttle the bulls again last night.
>assuming the Detroit Pistons will be this year’s NBA Champions
I will be sure to have the last laugh on this one:)
Glad you enjoyed the piece. It was a fun one to write.
It’s gonna be even more fun to see all the disbelievers silenced in a month:)
Brian Clark says
Ah man… I was hoping it was the most confident link bait ever. Come on man… live the myth! 🙂
Andrew Cavanagh says
This is a great post.
It’s very much like creating a “hook” or theme in sales copy.
If you capture the right theme it can grab your reader’s attention and hold it.
As a person who scans rss headlines most of the day your comments ring true. It’s all about the hook
Loving the series.
One question, how or where do you find your metaphors? What creative techniques do you use?
Sorry I guess that’s two questions. Hope I’m not over the limit. 🙂
I would also share Joanna’s question. I know my wife (who is Chinese) would have a hard time understanding much of what I write (not just metaphors) because she is not as familiar with our culture.
And yes, we have a lot of those “East meet West” moments. 🙂
what a great post! i surely do hope i could use this for my own blog but its rather difficult to do so…
Anne Miller says
Just wanted to say thanks for mentioning me and my book “Metaphorically Selling: how to use the magic of metaphors to sell, persuade & explain anything to anyone.” People don’t realize that the casual metaphors we use with friends (that’s a trainwreck waiting to happen) can be used strategically and with tremendous results in high stakes communications/sales. Happy to have discovered CopyBlogger and am signing up today. Anne Miller
Brian Clark says
Hey Anne, thanks for stopping by!
Anne’s book is wonderful, and goes into so much more depth than I could ever cover here. I recommend it whole heartedly.
Thanks Brian for another great & thought-provoking post. Great blog & a cracking call to action!
Erika SEO says
Great post! I am going to use it for the PROOF part.
Theda K. says
Hi, very interesting post. As a copywriter myself, I never really thought about how I was writing. I’m going to try writing with some metaphors on purpose now. I’m sure I’ve done it in the past, but like I said, I hadn’t paid much attention.
Thanks for the idea!
You pull it off everytime without the cheese. I always enjoy time spent on copyblogger.
All the best,
Frankie Cooper says
The use of metaphors to grab peoples attention what a great idea.
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