Whether the infusion of metaphors is through the script, visual treatment, or simply in symbolic components, they can make a concept standout and humanise the brand itself.

In one of her episodes, Ellen DeGeneres, with a quirky play of words described people who talk too much as “being with people like this is like being on a highway without exit signs then you have to pee.” While this made many giggles at the strange comparison, the audience certainly could relate to the feeling.

In Literary terms, a ‘metaphor’  is used for representing or is symbolic of an idea or object. Often, when we think of metaphors, we associate them with humour and the use of humour to describe complex things makes grasping the context easier. Similarly, many brands use metaphorical storytelling to make themselves more interactive with the audience. The complexity of the concept broken down into humorous visual treatment helps in humanising the brand for the target audience.

The modern audience essentially comprises young Millennial or Gen Z professionals who often have a short attention span. To cater to the competitiveness of the market and the increasing demand of the young audience for something “new”, brands have to consider reframing complex ideas. The use of metaphors and their cousins, analogies and similes, work because they are essentially storytelling, shorthand. One can convey a number of big ideas, concepts, and information in a mere sentence, or two, by linking one thing to another. It requires the innovativeness of a smartly written copy or interesting use of visual elements to make sure that the idea is simplified and conveyed directly to the audience.

These condensed forms of storytelling are particularly useful in today’s social media-driven marketing landscape, which values brevity and quick consumption.

Mind-benzing Creativity 

In 2013, Mercedes Benz came up with a ridiculous yet memorable “Chicken” commercial as part of its ‘Intelligent Drive’ campaign. The 50-second advertisement is rather minimal with its visual treatment yet manages to capture its audience with its smooth and humorous storytelling without requiring to show its product. The commercial starts with a close-up of a chicken as it starts to dance to the soundtrack.

With each beat drop, the body of the chicken moves flamboyantly and swiftly as if moving to the rhythm, all while its head remains stable and eyes invite the audience to dance along. As one tunes in to the commercial, their attention is held together with the upbeat music while the humour of the chicken adds to the confusion keeping them tuned in to know what’s next. 

The positioning of the chicken is actually a metaphor for the car while the swift movement and stability of the body perfectly describe its ‘Magic Body control’ feature. Without the showcase of the car, the ad manages to bring out its idea of optimum stability and driving comfort in a Mercedes Benz with its hilarious metaphorical storytelling through a dancing chicken.

A still from Mercedes-Benz “Chicken” MAGIC BODY CONTROL

Beware Of Fraud Calls

On the other hand, our State Bank of India advertisement uses a very simple yet comical tale of an unfortunate man to shed light on the issue of identity theft. In today’s world, it is highly important to be careful about sharing one’s bank details for security reasons. A warning message for the same may not be enough to leave a lasting effect, but a short story that lets you freely laugh is sure to be recurring in one’s memory.

The commercial features a man dressed in ethnic Rajasthani garments, performing a traditional puppet show. The concept takes its roots in folklore and their narration through puppet shows. While dancing like a puppet, the protagonist narrates his own story of how he lost money after being tricked by an unknown number to share his bank details.

While we see that the story in itself has a bit of dark humour, the script continues to show “ungli pe nachna” (dancing to someone’s tunes) quite literally through its visual treatment. The traditional cultural cues along with the use of Hindi metaphors are what make the ad appealing, and memorable while being in sync with SBI’s brand identity. The ad turned something simple and familiar with a complex issue into something extraordinary and engaging. Towards the end, the message, “Do not share your bank details” brings the audience back to SBI’s original goal of spreading awareness about bank identity thefts. The use of metaphor in the ad helps us the audience visualise abstractions.

A still from SBI Card Awareness Film

The Charisma Of Great Storytelling

Yet another example is Amazon’s, ‘Alexa of your Dreams’ 2021 ad with its new voice by Michael B. Jordan. The ad interestingly uses celebrity fandom to its advantage with its placement of the actor as Alexa in the day-to-day activities of the protagonist. The ad starts with the protagonist introducing Alexa as a product and as soon as she turns the device on, we see the actor with his charismatic presence on the screen.

Whether it is taking a therapeutic bath or having a calming dinner after a long day, we see the protagonist being swooned by Michael B. Jordan. The frames also have a number of humorous reactions of other people around the protagonist such as her husband and customers who watch her, confused. As the ad comes to a close, the audience realises that the presence of the actor throughout the ad wasn’t real, it was his voice that charmed the protagonist. 

With the metaphorical use of Michael B. Jordan’s presence in each frame, the ad highlights the new voice of Alexa that can add charisma to the audience’s everyday life. Working with celebrity love and fandom, the ad keeps the visual treatment rather basic and cliche to make the life of the protagonist relatable to its mass- audience. Nevertheless, just the metaphorical presence of a celebrity is enough to elevate the role of Alexa. With the use of a visual analogy, the ad creates new imagery to crack open the audience’s reality and make sense of the familiar.

A still from Amazon Alexa

Many brands often rely on direct messages when conveying their ideas or concepts, However, sometimes when the concept itself is complex, brands delve into the realm of familiarity with the audience. ‘Our candies taste good.’ may be a generic statement, but saying “Our candies taste like rainbows.” is what sets one’s candies apart from the others.

 Metaphors can be used to liven up a concept and amplify a description that can engage the audience and make the brand have a recall value. Whether the infusion of metaphors is through the script, visual treatment, or simply in symbolic components, they can make a concept stand out and humanise the brand itself. After all, in today’s world, what relates is what stays.

Written By – Adyasha Mishra