...this blogpost! Which refuses to even hint at its point. And yet you read on. It’s like I drove up beside you, waved, smiled, winked, and sped ahead. So you turned the ignition, pressed the gas pedal, and tailed me. You wondered where I was going, figured I had a destination worth your trip. Intrigued, you were drawn onward, zipping through forests and hills.
Of course, you only had so much patience. At some point, you got tired of the winding roads (though weren’t they beautiful?) and wanted to reach the destination. But even this frustration was part of the plan! It simply made you all the more excited for me to pull to the side, step out of the car, and point toward…
This blogpost is a metaphor* for metaphorical videos. It doesn’t set a clear context. It doesn’t put its value prop up front. It doesn’t give a literal, expository account. And it certainly doesn’t “tell it like it is,” often thought to be the ne plus ultra of online marketing.
The point, I’ll now reveal, is that leading an audience—even mysteriously and perhaps obliquely—to your point is stronger when done indirectly. Yes, you need your audience to get it. But you also need your audience to feel it. You want people to comprehend your product/service/idea, but it’s even better when they experience its value.
Comprehension is pretty easily achieved by straight talk, by describing and explaining real-world situations. But experience requires immersion, motion, narrative—and a metaphor is an effective way to create those. Metaphor invites people in rather than sitting them down to be talked at. It makes a sudden and delightful connection to your message. Even though it doesn’t get right at it, it does help people get it—and, in the dramatic moment when they do get it, they feel it.
Metaphor can mean many things, of course. A full-blown allegory that compares, say, financial planning to an expedition. Or a quick analogy that presents sales as a battle. Or even just an implied connection between a mystery story and making sense of customer data. (Why yes, we have done these.)
Whatever form it takes, a metaphor takes the audience a step away from the real world to help them see things in a new light. It creates an experience that sticks with them. And that means you stick with them.
You might be concerned—even bothered—by this approach. “Our audience is impatient,” you say, “and their time is valuable.” Yes, of course, but so are their emotions. And you probably won’t stir emotions by just telling it like it is. But you might if you start to tell them a story. And when your story leads them to a metaphorical understanding of your value, you’ll move them the way you want to.
-Written by Chris Molnar
*A footnote for those of you interested in post-modernism and all things meta. A metaphor for metaphor? What the what? Truth be told, I’m not entirely sure. But, based on obscure precedent, there arguably is a term for it. In the early 20th century, a group of conceptual artists (they were French, because of course) pondered what could be beyond metaphysics, which itself was already “beyond” physics. They called it ‘pataphysics (yes, the apostrophe is supposed to be there), which is delightfully defined as “the science of imaginary solutions.” So maybe anything that goes beyond metaphor (e.g. by applying a metaphor to metaphor itself) should be a ‘pataphor.