Metaphors are representations. They represent an idea but are not the idea itself.
We use visual metaphors in design to create a familiar experience for people by focusing on ideas and objects they understand. The metaphor associates two objects that appear unrelated at first but unconsciously, the mind makes the association almost immediately. So people stop and take a second look. You get more than 4.7 seconds with this creative strategy.
The strength of a successful visual metaphor is that it dramatizes the underlying benefit/risk thus encourages customers to create positive thoughts about a product and/or service. The smarter the metaphor – the more memorable the campaign.
The “tortoise and the hare” concept (below) works as an effective metaphor because it says to the customer, slow but steady will not help me succeed in my world. Good use of simple imagery helps reinforce this idea upon impact.
The “apples to apples” comparison (below) is an effective metaphor because when a product is perceived as a commodity with no apparent differences, it allows the customer to think, maybe there are differences. It is easy for people to understand and universally understood.
Smart advertisers use metaphors instead of outright claims because in a world of media overload it allows people to avoid advertising.
To sum up, metaphors are beneficial because they allow customers to:
– use their imagination;
– make positive associations with a product/service;
– come up with positive and sometimes misleading associations themselves – associations that are not written, just implied.
And guess what? People are less likely to argue against associations they come up with themselves, and more likely to remember and act on them!