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Why metaphor makes your copy sparkle

The writers in a good copywriting agency use both simile and metaphor to inject their copy with the kind of emotional imagery that will drive customers to buy.

The power of metaphor in your copy

That’s what makes them particularly useful to copywriters. They’re shortcuts. They can simplify complex concepts into a single picture that the audience understands. And they have the added advantage of adding weight to the emotional impact of the object or experience you’re describing by drawing on the customer’s existing feelings. It makes a connection with the reader, stirs their emotions and shapes their deeper thoughts about the product. Metaphors are so pleasing because they’re a double whammy. They catch your attention via the emotional and visual right brain, and make sense of things to the logical left brain.

Metaphor – a definition

A metaphor is a word or phrase which means one thing but is used to represent another. A simile is where an object or experience is described as merely ‘like’ something else, whereas using a metaphor implies that it’s so closely comparable that it ‘is’ something else. This is very useful when describing or re-framing a product. So Shakespeare could have said that the world was ‘like a stage’ if he’d felt a simile would do. But instead he said that it is a stage so that he can carry on with ‘And all the men and women merely players’ etc. Good copywriters use both, and I’m using the term ‘metaphor’ synonymously here.

When to use metaphors in your copy

The key to using metaphors effectively in your copywriting is to make them relevant. Use them when you most need them, for instance to convey a piece of complex information, or to overcome an objection. Or to make a product feel like a ‘must have’. Use sparingly and don’t waste them.

How to use metaphors in your copy

Make sure that you are clear. So don’t mix your metaphors unless that really works to ‘wake up’ the reader. Mixed metaphors that use the same imagery can work. Those that don’t usually cause confusion. Think your metaphor right down to the deeper layers of meaning. Do all of them carry positive connotations for what you’re selling? And be sure that you’ve squared the circle and made your metaphorical point absolutely obvious rather than simply implying it. Don’t make it too much of a stretch to understand or your reader won’t bother.

Which metaphor to use in your copy?

As always, think about your audience and how you can appeal to them. Use analogies and metaphors which relate to their experiences and pastimes. So there’s no point in using a baseball metaphor to sell to a young mother. If an old cliché will make your reader feel more comfortable or aid comprehension then don’t be afraid of using it, but do try to be original when you can. It stops the reader switching off.

Where to search for the perfect metaphor

Proverbs and sayings, maxims, mottos, aphorisms, fairytales, Bible stories and the plots of famous films are all good places to look for the perfect metaphor to enhance your copy. They have to be instantly recognisable, so the ones you know by heart are best. These are also the ones most loaded with emotion, and useful to the copywriter.

Metaphors take careful crafting to work well, but add the power to drive conversions as virtually no other copywriting weapon in the armoury does. If you’re having trouble finding exactly the right one why not give Oxygen’s copywriting agency team a call on 0845 2606 255. We’ll find a way of saying it so that you don’t have to.

Steve Lodge: Steve trained as a NCTJ journalist and is an experienced copywriter. He has over 15 years in agency, and started Oxygen in 2002.