Emotions and the Magical Metaphor

In our last post, we explored how analogies can be a great tool for helping your audience really understand what you do, especially when you’re dealing with complicated concepts. Now I want to take a look at a useful tool for helping your audience care about what you do: the metaphor. But first, more on why understanding and caring are important. Afterall, isn’t nonprofit marketing all about getting people to do things, like donate, buy tickets or enroll?

The path to action: Know. Feel. Do.

When we think about marketing, we usually think about getting people to take action. But it’s pretty hard to raise money for a mystery mission or to get people to sign a petition for a cause they really don’t care about. Taking action is actually the third step on a path it’s our job to pave—the Know-Feel-Do path. Here’s how it works.

First, you need to help your audience understand what you do and why it’s important. (This is the KNOW part.) Next, you need to pull people’s hearts into the equation by tapping their emotions, from compassion and joy to fear or even guilt. (This is the FEEL part.) Once your audience is hooked and eager, you give them a specific, concrete way to take action. (This is the DO part.)

Emotions: Your essential bridge

A common mistake I see over and over is a tendency to jump right from “Know” to “Do.” If understanding were all that was necessary to ignite action…we’d all be eating healthy and exercising enough!

I know what it’s like to have knowledge and not act on it. I’m sure you do too. Getting someone who doesn’t care or feel motivated to do something is like pushing a boulder uphill.

Sometimes, you can move a person from understanding to caring to action all in one letter, email or mailer. But often you’ll need multiple touch points to cultivate the understanding and the emotional connection required to generate action.

The metaphor: Your featured “feel” tool

So exactly how do you tap the emotions of your audience? Storytelling is perhaps the most familiar and utilized tool for engaging the emotions. Another is today’s featured “feel” tool, the metaphor.

Metaphors describe one thing in terms of another for rhetorical effect, not literal interpretation. Metaphors often engage the senses, painting vivid mental images and make the abstract concrete. Metaphors also helps us transfer emotions associated with a familiar idea or experience to something new, such as your organization’s work. I like to think of the metaphor as a shortcut between knowing and doing.

You don’t have to look far to find metaphors capturing hearts in great literature, famous love songs or even in effective marketing. For a great example, check out this short video by Cystic Fibrosis Trust, which uses the metaphor of “breath” to take the viewer on the emotional rollercoaster of having a baby with cystic fibrosis. The breath is a perfect metaphor here because it’s both emotionally evocative, familiar to everyone and central to the cause itself.

In an interesting twist, the website for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day tugs on the heart strings by turning the desired action itself into a metaphor, focusing on what every “step” in their 3-day walk signifies. The person peeking at the plastic swept under the “carpet” of the ocean in this poster from Take 3 for the Sea is a great reminder that images can be used as metaphors, too.

The next time you’re struggling for a way to draw on your audience’s emotions, ask yourself if there’s a metaphor for that.

Stay tuned for step three of the Know-Feel-Do path in our next installment.

In the meantime, give us a call at 267-468-7949 or drop us a line at info@iriscreative.com to discuss your organization’s marketing needs!