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Analogy, including metaphor, is the basis of human thought. These are resources of persuasion that we use in daily life, not only in language but also in thought and action. David Penn, Vice President of Victoria’s Secret, explained: “Every time the consumer receives a message from the outside, the world and its biology collide, and from this collision comes the meaning of the brand.”

Our ordinary conceptual system, which shapes the terms in which we think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. Concepts such as “Time is money” or “fast as the wind” are completely ingrained in our culture, they are superficial metaphors that are part of our way of communicating. Brand metaphors operate on a much deeper and less obvious level than superficial metaphors. We may not be aware of them, but as soon as they are pointed out to you, they become obvious: “Red Bull gives you wings.”

Brands are themselves metaphors because they represent sensory experiences and not literal descriptions of those experiences. While products are literal, brands are metaphorical as they are projected images of the experience with those products/services they represent.

Metaphor and metonymy are important foundations of semiotics, the science that studies the different systems of signs that allow communication between individuals. They are related to both the figurative and the literal senses of The Signs. Metaphor uses comparison, association, or resemblance To make an analogy between one thing and another: “What do the clouds smell like?” … asked Evax in one of his most recognizable campaigns. Metonymy uses an attribute of something to make it stand out on its own: “Connecting people”… promised Nokia in its heyday.

On the other hand, there is also irony, which is the totally opposite use of the meaning of a word. This is one of the These are the main problems that robots encounter in their indexing to obtain the so-called
online reputation
, since they do not understand the irony that makes the real meaning depend entirely on the context in which it occurs.

While metaphor is based on symbolic meanings, metonymy is based on indexed meanings. Brands use metaphor or metonymy constantly, both in their names and in communication. Some names are more literal like iPhone and more symbolic ones like Amazon:

Bezos selected Amazon’s name because the Amazon was an “exotic and different” place just as he planned his tent; The Amazon River was the “biggest” river in the world, and he planned to turn his store into the largest in the world. On Amazon you can find everything. And the brand promise reinforces the metaphor as “… a place where people can go to find and discover anything they want to buy online.”

In this sense, brands that use literal communication appeal to the rational part of the brain, while those that use metaphors directly target the emotional and unconscious parts of the brain.

But one of the principles of semiotics It is that things are often not as they seem and neither are their meaning. Oppositions are the basis for the configuration of myths, whose aim is to dramatize contradictions in order to resolve them later. Many binary oppositions have a universal character (good and bad, love and hate…) and are part of the pure essence of the universe.


. Binary oppositions are a great way to think about meanings and find innovative ways to break down conventions.

One of the best-known examples of the use of contradictions in branding came from the hand of the Skip detergent . Your Campaign “Getting dirty is good” It has been one of the most successful in its category. Skip resolves the contradiction between science and nature, clean and dirty, good and bad. While cleanliness is culturally associated with the good, Skip finds the formula to embrace the bad by letting the kids get dirty as part of their learning. It’s not just a communication campaign, it’s a real statement of intent that builds on the brand promise itself.

It is clear that metaphors gain their maximum strength when they are accompanied by a suggestive visualization, which underlines or replaces even the use of headlines or verbal messages. But visual metaphors do not act in isolation but must start from the essence itself, and from the values and attributes of the brand. According to David A. Aaker and Erich Joachimsthaler in their work Brand Leadership: “The development of visual metaphors provides another avenue for making identity more alive.” Metaphors, closely linked to the theory of archetypes, have the ability to convey the values and attributes of a brand by evoking psychological or cultural triggers and the creation of emotional experiences themselves.

The use of visual analogies allows the story of the brand to be told. It communicates the more complex vision of the brand – who it is and what it does – using visuals we’re already used to. A visual metaphor helps tell the audience why the brand is different from its competition. An excellent example was used by Smart. This car brand was launched and known for its diminutive size, an advantage that they decided to highlight in their initial campaigns, so the visual analogy they used was that driving through the crowded streets of the city was like trying to thread a needle and precisely a Smart car could easily thread the streets.

Seven Profound Metaphors

Gerald Zaltman explains in
Marketing Metaphoria
, “Deep metaphors are enduring ways of perceiving things, making sense of what we encounter, and guiding our subsequent actions.” The seven deep metaphors are the building blocks of brand metaphors. For example, the Coca-Cola brand is based on the profound metaphor of transformation. Coca-Cola transforms you, energizes you, and refreshes you. Coca-Cola thus brings its metaphor to life.

There are universal metaphors that span countries, cultures, languages, and dialects. Zaltman calls them the seven giants:

  1. Balance: The idea of keeping things “the way they should be.” People talk about balance in many ways. Your diet may be “out of balance.” You may be striving for “work-life balance.” Balance includes the physical, the mental, the social, the psychological, or even the aesthetic.
  2. Transformation: Transformation involves changing state or condition. It is the caterpillar that transforms into a butterfly. Transformation is all about change, and we can consciously seek it or avoid it.
  3. Trip: Travel is a central idea and can be physical, social, or psychological. Your career is a journey, and you could be “stuck,” “jumping positions,” or working “toward retirement.”
  4. Container: Containers keep things inside like Tupperware, or they keep them out like a moat around a castle. The privacy debate around social media and the internet is an example of a container metaphor. We value our privacy and care about who has access to it.
  5. Connection: Connections are personal. We express ownership of our things. For example, “I love my car.” We also express disconnection or loss when someone close to us passes away. The connection leads us to think about marriage, children, children’s march to college, and giving and receiving gifts.
  6. ResourcesWe need resources to survive: food, water, air, even a mother’s love. Your smartphone is a resource. People often say that they “feel naked without it.” We have mentors who are a “source of knowledge.” Resources are the things we need.
  7. ControlControl can be the most visceral of profound metaphors. As humans we crave control and feel very uncomfortable when we lose it. People can feel powerless when confronted with a bad boss. We have laws and morals to help us establish control. When things are going well, you could say that we are on “autopilot”.

Brands are living beings and transform as such, but brand metaphors tend to be static. A brand’s positioning and value proposition typically have a shelf life of three to six years, depending on the industry. Consumer brands change much faster than industrial brands, but regardless of the industry, all companies change. The beauty of brand metaphors is that they endure. The way the brand metaphor is expressed or articulated may change, but its core meaning and presence are a constant.

Branding is a glue that brings together disciplines. Psychology, semiotics, symbology, sociology… To a greater or lesser extent, all of them are involved in management processes

professional of a brand. Learning from all of them will make us achieve the best results.