Marketing Innovation: The Metaphor Tool Using the Division Pattern

by | Feb 11, 2013 | Advertising Tools, Culture of Innovation, Design Thinking, Evaluation Ideas | 0 comments

The Metaphor is the most commonly used tool in marketing communications because it is a great way to attach meaning to a newly-launched product or brand. The Metaphor Tool takes a well-recognized and accepted cultural symbol and manipulates it to connect to the product, brand, or message.

The tool is one of eight patterns embedded in most innovative commercials.  Jacob Goldenberg and his colleagues describe these simple, well-defined design structures in their book, "Cracking the Ad Code," and provide a step-by-step approach to using them.  The tools are:

   1. Unification
   2. Activation
   3. Metaphor
   4. Subtraction
   5. Extreme Consequence
   6. Absurd Alternative
   7. Inversion
   8. Extreme Effort

The trick is to attach a metaphor in a non-obvious, clever way.  The process is called fusion, and there are three versions:  Metaphor fused to Product/Brand, Metaphor fused to Message, and Metaphor fused to both the Product/Brand and Message.  Here is an example metaphor fused to the message:

What's clever about this commercial is
its use of the Division pattern, one of five that form the basis of the
product innovation method, Systematic Inventive Thinking
Division works by taking the product and/or one of its components and
dividing it physically, functionally, or in a way we call 'preserving'
where each portion maintains the characteristics of the whole.  By
dividing the news about her affair with her husband's best friend into
one word at a time, the wife softened the impact.  Banco Continental uses
this little story as a metaphor for breaking loan payments into smaller, more
manageable amounts.

To use the Metaphor Tool, start by
defining the message. Then create a list of symbols (objects, images, or
concepts) that are directly related to the message (a metaphor). Next
make a list of the product's components or components near the product
(Closed World). Finally, choose a symbol and a component and fuse them
together. Create various combinations of metaphoric symbols and
components to find candidates that have that element of surprise or