Yep, the iOS upgrades have aised the bar on text messaging and can help you get through an extended corporate drone presentation. Now is also a fabulous moment to upgrade your conversation…(even if your phone is Android.) Like GIFs and new emoticons, if done properly creative comparisons help people to tune in, understand and remember what you said.
To have impact and influence, your message has to stick and most memories are Teflon coated. Creative comparisons cut through the clutter. Let’s see some examples.
Chip Gaines has a knack for clever wordings, which no doubt has contributed to the HGTV show, Fixer Upper‘s massive success. In Season 2, Episode 2, he says of a room clad in burgundy velvet curtains complete with pom poms, “If a movie theatre and a funeral home had a child, this room would be it.”
Great analogies are particularly good for complex concepts, the category that often includes technology. MUSC‘s Senior Network Analyst, Jonathan Yantis starts his explanation like this: “The best way to think about networks is in layers.”
For someone who thinks of networks as a giant jumble of cables, this is helpful and memorable enough that I wrote it down.
At the Charleston Digital Corridor meetup Friday morning, Thingworx Technical Marketing Director Jeff Beck shared his expert point of view on the Internet of Things (IoT, duh!). When asked about data ownership, by responding “Who owns the data? That’s the elephant in the room” Jeff let us know that no one has a clue and it’s going to be messy.
But what if he had said, “It’s the hippopotamus in the room”?
or less creatively, “It’s the issue we’re all avoiding”?
At the 2016 Women in Film Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, Cate Blanchett shared credit with talent agent Hylda Queally for her success with this fabulous metaphor, “I would be an unformed piece of amoebic Jell-O without you.”
Unformed amoebic Jell-O. Seriously? But the image sticks.
And this last example is pure marketing brilliance. You know the fancy Italian jeweler, Bulgari? They’ve partnered with WISekey, a leading Swiss data security firm to launch Bvlgari Vault. The $50/year service encrypts your data, but they use the imagery and suggestion of a Swiss Bank vault and the analogy that your data is like valuable jewels. Their branding, like any luxury, is pure dark chocolate truffles for the eyes. #wishIhadthoughtofthat
[Note: Techie friends recommend 1password for protecting your data. It’s not as pretty, but it works and costs a lot less.]
Why creative comparisons work.
Analogies, metaphors and similes are all forms of comparisons. In sharing a new concept, it helps to compare the known to the unknown. An unexpected comparison or twist of words catches the attention of our distracted brains, who are busy wondering what’s for lunch and if the package from Amazon will arrive today.
However, just because a comparison is creative does not mean it is effective.
Comparisons that work are credible and creative (unexpected).
The prevailing empire of open work spaces lacks credibility. It’s built on the superficial analogy between intellectual and physical barriers, assuming that the only thing we need to develop innovation is to mash up people all day in an office. That completely ignores the reality that the noise from conversations and interruptions make it harder to concentrate and dive deeply into any material. Real innovation usually results from deep thinking about an issue over time.
The image of an analogy has to fit the truth it’s meant to explain, or at least shed light upon.
Upgrade your communication tool box with some clever analogies of your own. Write down the thing you want to explain, the specific quality of the thing. This quality could be a feature or a benefit. If you want to emphasize how white the room was, make a list of things that are white.
Play with this list until you have something you want to try.
Another approach is to list the usual comparison, such as “the elephant in the room.” You have 2 nouns here, you can change “elephant” (which is large) or “room” (a familiar space). Elephants are not normally found in rooms so you can’t use the example of your large dog; he belongs in the room. The idea to express is something that people are ignoring that they should be noticing.
You might develop a list like this one:
- the elephant in the library
- the camel in the room
- the rhinoceros in the room
Or choose another route of saying “we should be paying attention to this”:
- Like your blood pressure and cholesterol levels: decidedly not sexy but ignore them at your peril
- We can ignore X like some young drivers prefer not to notice their change-oil light
Or consider referring to things easy to ignore including the color beige, background music and the growth of your toe nails.
At the Tumblr Clever Analogies, some make you smile, others not so much.
The best writers are often so because they have strong analogy muscles, C.S. Lewis comes to mind for his clever ways to talk about Christianity. You don’t have to be a witty writer to use this communication tool, with a bit of practice it’s there to make you look amazing, and make your message stick like a mobile phone to a teenager.