Emotive Brand

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Using Metaphors to Explain Brand and Product Complexity

Even the most complex brands need to make meaningful connections with customers. At Emotive Brand, we work with a lot of brands that have complicated technology, products, or services. As we dive into these brands, we often find that even company founders struggle to clearly explain what their brand does and why it matters in a way that truly resonates with customers. Oftentimes they use a metaphor to describe their offering.

Metaphors are powerful communication devices. They help us consider new ideas or concepts in a relatable way. They help us move away from talking about features and benefits and towards a better understanding of the brand’s significance.

In the evolving marketplace of SaaS, AdTech, FinTech, cloud services, big data, platforms — the list goes on — the amount of brands out there with innovative and complex offering is seemingly endless. We encounter technology, banking, professional services, and even luxury brands that need a better way to communicate their value proposition without getting stuck in the trenches of abstract vernacular and terminology. With the proliferation of different products and services, brands are under increasing pressure to stand out, be clear about what they offer, and create an emotional connection. Brands that do all of that and articulate why they matter set the stage for meaningful connections.

Brand Name as a Metaphor

A metaphor can be used in a brand name or as part of a tagline. By choosing a culturally familiar symbol as a representation of your brand, you can create a deeper meaning that resonates with the people important to your brand. A metaphor shapes the way we engage with the brand because it is often the basis for a brand story. Consider the metaphors used in some of the world’s most valuable brands:

Amazon: It’s the largest river in the world. You can find everything on Amazon. And the brand promise reinforces the metaphor as “… a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Oracle: Defined as a thing that delivers authoritative, wise, or highly regarded and influential pronouncements. Oracle has a wide range of technology offerings from software to cloud engineering, all of which are intended to act as oracles in the world of technology.

Corona: ‘King’ in Spanish. A dominant force. A thing preeminent in its class. Corona is the ‘King of Beer’ and its name makes people feel confident, masculine, and proud — qualities we often associate with beer drinking.

Campaign Metaphor

For a truly complex business offering, a brand might need to lean on a marketing campaign based on a metaphorical concept. We looked to some of the best campaigns of all time to see which of these turned a metaphor into a way of communicating what the brand stands for, why it matters, and what sort of emotional connection it created.

Chevrolet: Like a Rock

The “Like a Rock” campaign evokes toughness, ruggedness, and safety. When people are referred to as a ‘rock,’ it suggests the person will never leave you hanging, they are dependable, and unwavering. Chevvy’s campaign expands on the subconscious feeling of people who own a Chevvy: it’s there when they need it, and it’s all they need.

Red Bull: Give You Wings

The idea that Red Bull “gives you wings” suggests that Red Bull can metaphorically lift you up to achieve even the riskiest endeavors. Whether it’s staying awake longer on a graveyard shift or diving off a 50 foot building into a shallow river, Red Bull promises to give you the energy and courage to make it happen. The campaign conveys the feeling of capability, determination, and power.

How to Choose a Metaphor for Your Brand

If your brand offers a complex product or a service that is difficult to explain (maybe because there’s nothing to compare it to), consider using a metaphor as the roadmap for how you talk about your brand or explain the complexities of what it offers. When leading clients down this path, we often ask:

  • What does your product represent to customers?
  • How does your brand deliver value?
  • Where does your brand fit into your customers’ lives?
  • How do you connect your offering to your brand’s promise?

Consider brainstorming these questions to help guide your metaphor. Although products and industries evolve, the beauty of a brand metaphor is that they don’t change. The core meaning is a constant and the way people connect with your brand becomes long-lasting. With the right brand metaphor, you can create meaningful connections and relevant customer experiences that grow alongside your brand.

Emotive Brand is brand strategy firm.

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