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Analogy Vs. Metaphor Vs. Simile: Which One To Use In Copywriting?

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Some special things, including women, come with a very rare quality of their own.

They have the ability to put up an innocent face yet possess complex machinery running inside their interior.

Complex Simplicity. That’s how I call it.

And an analogy, a metaphor or a simile pretty much falls into the same category. They are simple to get your head around but when it comes to actually use them in action—I mean, in marketing copywriting, they are not very easy to apply.

Where do you use an analogy?

Should you even put a simile there?

Is a metaphor more useful than an analogy?

Frankly speaking, I couldn’t find much data on this question.

It’s a matter of subjective opinion and it’s just too hard to be specific in this one. So, I will try to answer this without the help of A/B tests or any scientific research done on this topic (Know of any? Let me know.)

analogy, simile or metaphor

Let’s Start With The Basics…
What Is An Analogy, A Simile Or A Metaphor?

Instead of giving my own definitions, I will use someone else’s (which are far better than I could have come up with). John Bagnall, a writer and lecturer, wrote about Analogy and Metaphor on Quora:

Analogy and metaphor are both figures of speech in which reference is made to one thing in order to convey another.

An analogy most often involves reference to something familiar or readily understood, in order to illustrate and explain something more complex and less readily understood.  The word comes from the classical Latin analogia, meaning ratio or proportion.  Thus an analogy essentially possesses the same properties and characteristics as the more complex thing it’s being used to represent, but in a simplified, scaled-down manner that’s easier to grasp (the ”thing” in question can be factual and exist physically, or be figurative and conceptual). Thus, to explain the way in which modern English has evolved, I might use the analogy of a river in which individual tributaries  (representing Celtic, Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Norman French and later influences) flow into a wider stream in which their waters combine.  By giving you that picture, I’m helping you to get a clearer understanding via a physical representation—in principle, at least—of a rather more complex and non-physical reality.

To a certain extent, a metaphor works the other way around. The word comes via Old and Middle French from the classical Latin metaphora, which derives in turn from an ancient Greek word meaning to bear or carry.  Thus a metaphor—a descriptive word or phrase used in place of another to which it bears no literal relationship—is intended to ”carry” or ”bear” the meaning of the word(s) it’s replacing in a manner that’s generally more vivid and memorable than the original. One scientific study found that comprehension of metaphors is perceptually grounded. Unlike analogy, which involves a measure of deliberation and evaluation (in order to think of a good one), metaphor tends to be a more spontaneous process which we employ all the time in everyday conversation—let alone more structured rhetoric. While formally constructed examples may be complex in the extreme, it’s been estimated we use a simple metaphor, from ”devouring” a book or ”killing” for a beer to ”partying” with friends or being ”hooked” on Quora, up to six times a minute.

What about simile? Well, a simile is basically a type of metaphor. It compares two different objects to create a new meaning or amplify the characteristic of one object based on that of another’s.  It was used extensively during the slapstick era (1970s-80s) in Britain. In comedy, similes often connote a negative meaning and were helpful in tackling with sensitive issues in front of the audience. (This approach might not work with copywriting where everything is in print, whether real or virtual.)

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines”

Ah, what lines by the Bard of Avon! By the way, this is an extended simile.

Now that we have figured out what these 3 figures of speeches are, let’s answer the most important question.

How Should You Use Them In Copywriting?

I am going to disappoint you now.

I will not be able to give you any specific answer to this question.

But I can provide you with some pointers that I use myself.

When To Use Simile In Copywriting?
A: For Casual Or Funny Comments, For Great Storytelling

Similes are not very powerful in nature, at least in copywriting. They can become impactful ONLY when present in the right context.

Still, it’s hard to bring about—creating the context where a simile brings forth profound meaning along with it.

Rather, use it only when you are using it for humour. Or you are just casually making a simple point.

One thing to note: When it comes to storytelling in copywriting, similes can be very useful.

“As daft as a brush”.

“As slow as a snail.”

“Duct tape is like the force — it has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together.” (Carl Zwanzig)

“Dealing with network executives is like being nibbled to death by ducks.” (Eric Sevareid)

“I’m as pure as the driven slush.” (Tallulah Bankhead, 1903-1968)

“Her vocabulary was like, yeah, whatever.”

When To Use Metaphors In Copywriting?
A: For Powerful Impact

The greatest thing by far is to be a master of metaphor ~ Aristotle

Most great orators and writers master the art of using metaphors in their public speeches and writings.

Its incredible power lies in its “complex simplicity”. Not only do metaphors present a wealth of meaning in just a couple of words, but metaphors entwine the human senses, our perception, in such a manner as to make it deeply palatable.

People often associate metaphor with poetry, literature, and art, but we all use metaphor in our day-to-day conversation, often without realizing it. Because they are so effective at instantly communicating both tangible and conceptual information, metaphorical expressions are woven throughout the fabric of the English language.

“She has a special place in my heart”

“I’m at the height of my career”

“Education is the gateway to success”

“Life in the fast lane”

“She followed in her mother’s footsteps”

“A blanket of snow fell last night”

While metaphors are pervasive in our everyday discourse, the strategic use of metaphorical expression can be one of the most persuasive techniques in your linguistic toolbox. Simply altering a single word, phrase, or story can make the difference between the success and failure of and an argument or presentation.

Humans, psychologically speaking — the emotional fools as we are — react strongly to emotions. The power of a metaphor lies in its ability to ignite the emotional part (right side) of our brain before it activates the rational part (left side) of it.

Think about it. A picture says a thousand words. Yes, it really does. Remember when you see your ex’s photos? That sudden rush of emotions inside your heart? You don’t even need any words at that moment. Sometimes, words are not enough.

That’s exactly why you need metaphors.

Metaphors are required because words are not enough at times. Click To Tweet

When To Use Analogy In Copywriting?
A: In Descriptions, Creating Mental Connections

Clients often ask me how to write analogies. After all, a good analogy can:

  1. Clarify something by giving your buyer a comfortable reference point…
  2. Inject some humanity and personality into your writing…
  3. Bring a non-threatening, non-salesy way to speak to people, building trust…

Here are a few examples of analogies I’ve used that people have commented on:

“…the first kind of assumption is good — it will make your cash register ring. The second one leaves you destitute, with a naked field of un-harvested crops…”

“…these people have been living here since Christ was an altar-boy…”

“…it’s mandatory, just the same way eating is mandatory if you want to stay alive…”

Analogies add colour to the picture you’re trying to sketch for your readers.

Not much different than metaphors, right?

Well, there’s a difference.

Metaphors are a lot more subtle and powerful than analogies IMO. Metaphors are done when you don’t even know realize that it’s a metaphor. It flows along with the text, along with the context.

However, analogies are straight in the face and they make you think. Or, let’s say, they make you feel. If I am trying to make a point that needs explanation, I would use an analogy. If I am just trying to invoke a certain inside my reader and it just needs to be in one line, perhaps, I would use a metaphor.

There you go.

Analogy…metaphor…simile…and how to use them in your copywriting piece to your advantage.

However, I will still say that it varies according to personal opinion.

As a writer, always go by your “writer guts” and do what feels right to you.

As ever,
Ron C.



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