Do you understand how to craft an analogy that is actually an analogy (and not a metaphor or simile) and that holds the power to persuade? You will after you listen to this week’s episode.
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- The Persuasive Power of Analogy
Jerod Morris: Welcome to Sites, a podcast by the teams at StudioPress and Copyblogger. In this show, we deliver time-tested insight on the four pillars of a successful WordPress website: content, design, technology, and strategy. We want to help you get a little bit closer to reaching your online goals, one episode at a time.
I’m your host Jerod Morris.
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Welcome back to another episode of Sites, and another week of adding a strategy to your toolbox that will help you create a powerful and successful WordPress website.
Last week we discussed the power of focusing on quality over quantity — why you need to do more with your best ideas and how exactly to do that.
This week, we go back to talking about content, and that means we go back to Brian Clark for another useful idea that will help you improve your content marketing strategy.
You’re probably familiar with metaphors, similes, and analogies. But do you know the differences between them? And do you understand how to craft an analogy that is actually an analogy and that holds the power to persuade? You will after you listen to this week’s episode.
And you’ll also come away with a funny joke to tuck away for your next dinner party, as well as evidence that Arnold Schwarzenegger may be one of the great analogists of our time. Seriously.
Let’s dive into this week’s episode of Sites, which is based on Brian Clark’s blog post The Persuasive Power of Analogy.
An elderly man storms into his doctor’s office, steaming mad.
“Doc, my new 22-year-old wife is expecting a baby. You performed my vasectomy 30 years ago, and I’m very upset right now.”
“Let me respond to that by telling you a story,” the doctor calmly replies.
“A hunter once accidentally left the house with an umbrella instead of his rifle. Out of nowhere, a bear surprised him in the woods … so the hunter pointed the umbrella, fired, and killed the bear.”
“Impossible,” the old man snaps back. “Someone else must have shot that bear.”
“And there you have it,” the doctor says.
Persuasion comes from understanding
At the heart of things, persuasion is about your audience understanding what you’re communicating. Understanding leads to acceptance when the argument is sound, well-targeted, and the conclusion seems unavoidable.
When it comes to creating effective understanding, analogies are hard to beat. Most of their persuasive power comes from the audience arriving at the intended understanding on their own.
The doctor could have simply said that the old man’s wife had to be cheating on him. But the analogy allowed the cranky patient to come to that conclusion on his own, which is much more persuasive.
Let’s take a second to make sure we’re all on the same page with analogies. It first helps to distinguish them from their close cousins, metaphor and simile.
A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses one thing to mean another and makes a comparison between the two. A simile compares two different things in order to create a new meaning while using the words “like” or “as.”
An analogy is comparable to a metaphor and simile in that it shows how two different things are similar, but it’s a bit more complex.
Rather than a figure of speech, an analogy is more of a logical argument. The structure of the argument leads to a new understanding for the audience.
When you deliver an analogy, you demonstrate how two things are alike by pointing out shared characteristics (a hunter with an unloaded umbrella and an elderly man who is “firing blanks” sexually). The goal is to show that if two things are similar in some ways, they are similar in other ways as well.
Let me give you an example of a killer persuasive analogy. It comes from that master of sophisticated rhetoric, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Terminator analogy
Schwarzenegger is an advocate for renewable energy, both for California and the world at large. Given his celebrity status and prior political experience as Governor of California, he has quite the platform to share his views.
Just over a year ago, Arnold published a piece on Facebook called I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change. That provocative title set the stage for what could be called a “terminator” analogy, in the sense that it puts any intellectually honest person in an inescapable box that supports the conclusion Schwarzenegger wants you to arrive at.
First, Arnold says forget whatever you think about climate change. He goes so far as to say that climate change deniers can assume that they’re right.
He then turns to the facts of the here and now:
- 7 million people die every year from pollution
- 19,000 people die every day from pollution from fossil fuels
- Renewable energy is driving economic growth
Then, Arnold turns to an analogy that illustrates his argument in a very personal way:
“There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.
I’m guessing you chose Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door Number One is a fatal choice — who would ever want to breathe those fumes?
This is the choice the world is making right now.”
Talk about putting someone in a box — literally. By sidestepping the controversy over climate change and making the outcome of exposure to fossil fuel emissions a matter of personal life or death, Arnold likely changed the minds of more than a few reasonable people.
Now, this is the internet. So, I’m sure some people simply refuse to be swayed no matter what, and some trolls probably said they’d rather choose the deadly Door Number One than do anything perceived as good for the environment.
To which I say … I mean, there is a way to set up a real-life demonstration of this analogy if anyone’s interested. 🙂
Now let’s talk about why marketing analogies work like a charm …
I shared Schwarzenegger’s analogy because it’s a brilliant example. But keep in mind that unlike with contentious social issues, your prospects want you to convince them.
If someone has a problem they want solved or a desire they want fulfilled, they want to find a solution. If they’re currently a part of your audience, they want you to be the solution.
That means they want to understand why you’re the best choice. Which means they want to be persuaded.
And that’s the essence of content marketing strategy. Tell your particular who exactly what they need to hear, exactly how they need to hear it.
The right analogy, at the right time, told the right way, may be exactly what they need to do business with you …
And there you have it.
Now, stick around for this week’s hyper-specific call to action.
Call to action
Here’s my question for you this week …
What are you trying to TELL your readers — or, to be more specific, what are you trying to persuade your readers to do — through expository prose or facts and figures, that you might be able to better communicate through analogy?
Identify something. Maybe it’s in a previous blog post. Maybe it’s in a previous podcast episode. Maybe it’s some email copy you wrote, or maybe it’s on your About page.
Just identify something. Then … give it a try. If you haven’t used analogies much in the past, and I lump myself in this group, then this surely won’t be easy at first. It will probably feel a little bit awkward. And you may not end up publishing whatever you write. But just … give it a try. Because you won’t really know until you try.
Think about it this way …
Say you just moved into a new house. And upon inspecting the basement, you notice a sealed door you’d never noticed before. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy to open, and maybe you’re not exactly handy with tools — another group I will lump myself into.
So you’re a little hesitant about trying to pry the door open. Anything could be in there. That’s a little worrisome. Plus it won’t be easy, and you’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone to open it.
But you decide to do it anyway. And lo and behold … there’s $10,000 in there. You report the finding, have it investigated, and find out it’s not counterfeit or stolen. It’s just … yours.
Pretty cool huh? Well, you never would have found that money if you hadn’t been willing to overcome your initial hesitancy and awkwardness to pry that door open.
What kind of valuable analogies might you find if you pry the seal off your thinking and give it a try?
So, there was my attempt at an analogy. I couldn’t ask you to do it and not be willing to do it myself! And it wasn’t great, I know … but it was a start. And now I’m one step closer to my next good analogy. As with anything, improvement comes with practice.
Now go fight through any hesitancy and create your own analogy! If you want to email it to me, or tweet it to me, please feel encouraged to do so.
Okay, that’s it for this week. Next week we are going to combine design, technology, and strategy all into one episode and discuss some SEO-friendly tips that will help you improve the speed and performance of your WordPress site.
And finally, before I go, here are two more quick calls to action for you to consider:
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And with that, we come to the close of another episode. Thank you for listening to this episode of Sites. I appreciate you being here.
Join me next time, and let’s keep building powerful, successful WordPress websites together.
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