While we think of metaphors as mainly word-based, visual metaphors can be a potent selling tool. They can both engage the brain like text metaphors and stimulate the viewer’s senses in a way that words alone may not.
I ran across an ad for Austin-based Elements Laser Spa that includes both a visual metaphor and a play on words. The ad shows a rose with its thorns removed, while its headline text reads, “Nice Stems.” (For international Neuromarketing readers, “stems” is slang for “legs.”)
This ad is brilliant in several ways. First, it produces an “aha!” reward to the viewer’s brain since most readers will understand the cryptic ad only when they look at the small print below. (The print version of this ad has a small box below the illustration that offers a discount on laser hair removal. The long-stemmed rose with the little pile of thorns won’t make sense at first, but upon seeing the text in the discount offer just about every viewer will immediately grasp what’s going on.
The second clever element is the double meaning of “stems” – like many good headlines, this amusing play on words will grab the viewer’s brain. Words used in unconventional ways have been shown to have that effect – see also Shakespeare Copywriting.
The final element that makes this ad great is that once the viewer has put together the stems/legs play on words, there’s the visual metaphor of the thorns. While most women wouldn’t immediately think of leg hair as a painful hazard, the thorn metaphor suggests that stubbly legs are comparable to a thorny plant. This imagery certainly makes longer-lasting hair removal seem like a better alternative than frequent shaving and the inevitable appearance of scratchy stubble.
Another ad for the same shop uses a cactus metaphor. Here in Texas one actually encounters cacti both in the wild and in landscaping, and if anything it’s an even more sensory metaphor than the rose thorns! That ad lacks the clever wordplay, though.
For a slightly different take on a hairy topic, check out Schick Commercial’s Aha! Moment.
Have you seen any great use of visual metaphors in ads? Leave a comment, and I’ll try to post images.