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How to Create Analogies that Sell Your Brand

Comparison is to Selling Ideas as Analogy is to Business   Have you ever wondered why people use sports or other analogies to describe business relationships? Statements such as “getting on the same team” (because we all need to “wear the same uniform”) are commonly heard from managers discussing performance issues with their reports. Baseball analogies such as “keeping your eye on the ball” (and being careful not to drop it!) are often used by Sales and Marketing teams, while they must “swing for the fences” to achieve their goals.   Similarly, in business consulting circles, other analogies proliferate. Phrases like “getting the right people on the bus,” having “stretch” goals, and determining whether a new product or service fits within a company’s “wheel house” are often used. The reason analogies are so abundant is because they are effective in helping us understand complex ideas by juxtaposing them with more familiar (and simpler) ones.   Analogies are effective at selling brands because:   1. They use something familiar and relevant for your audience to understand what you are selling; 2. They highlight similarities while downplaying differences; 3. They tell a story about the product or service (and hopefully a consistent one!); and 4. They form emotional connections with the target market or audience.   According to John Pollack in his book Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation and Sell Our Greatest Ideas, “It is only by making analogies that we connect ideas from one realm to another in a way that is relevant and useful…” Furthermore, “Persuasive analogies…are easy to grasp, and they communicate their main idea in a way that is sympathetic to their audience, intellectually and emotionally.”   Relevance is crucial for creating effective analogies that communicate your brand message, or help differentiate your product or service. It is OK to use a sports analogy; however, make sure it is the right sport—you wouldn’t want to reference a Cricket Match in the United States, or else all you would hear from the audience would be just that—crickets (not only a bad pun, but an analogy for “silence” as well!).   Developing an effective analogy to sell your brand is not as hard as you may think. The Latin word for thinking is “cogitate,” which literally translated means “to mix together.” Taking two unique or unlikely ideas or words and combining them together often yield unexpected results, and are a breeding ground for good analogies. Use the following brainstorming techniques to help you get started:  

  1. Free Association thinking. Write down any word or idea that comes to mind when thinking about your brand, including emotions, colors, perceptions, adjectives or phrases; anything and everything is appropriate. After editing this list, create an idea tree using these words or ideas.
  1. Create an idea tree. Write down the name of your product, service, or brand within a circle. Branching off of this, use ideas or words generated from the Free Association exercise (see above) and write them down in circles with lines connecting them to the brand. From each of these words, write down, circle, and connect any more words and ideas that are related, and so on. Repeat this process for each word or idea until they become so specific or are no longer relative.
  1. Use a dictionary and thesaurus. Word definitions can be very descriptive about the nature of an object or idea. In addition to helping understand terminology used, the dictionary can be used to suggest visual symbols and metaphors that are analogous to the brand. You may use words generated through free association thinking or the idea tree. After defining key words that describe the brand, use a thesaurus to find related words or synonyms.
  By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand and Creative Strategy