Using Comparisons Effectively

Comparing complex or unfamiliar concepts with something your prospect already knows can be very effective in leaping the learning curve.

These comparisons are called "metaphors" or "similes." But don’t worry what they’re called … just make sure when using them that they inform and that they do not call attention to their cleverness.

For example, you might compare a financial newsletter to a "money tree." Bad idea. This falls into a category that Bob Bly calls "fancy phrases and puffed-up expressions." The words sound nice, but they don’t sell because they don’t clarify or inform.

On the other hand, a recent issue of Inside Freelance Design compared a computer to a woodworking shop: The memory was like the workbench, the hard drive like the cabinets, and the processor like the tools.

The metaphor was not there to impress. It was there to clarify. And it worked.

A word of caution: If you do use comparisons, stick to one image. You shouldn’t, for example, compare a computer to a woodworking shop – and then say something like, "It will help you hit a home run with every promotion you create." That’s a "mixed metaphor." And mixed metaphors not only do not inform, they open your copy to potentially sarcastic questions like "Well, which is it … a woodworking shop or a baseball bat?"

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Published: August 8, 2005

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