Metaphor As Driver of Business

I prefer reading on my phone than I do the newspaper nowadays, but I still love having Newsday waiting in my driveway every day. When I lived in the city and commuted into Manhattan, I used to have a ritual of buying a “New York Newsday,” to remind myself of my Long Island roots.

And my kids have taken an interest in the paper, too, though I remember reading it a lot more closely than they seem to at the same age. Still, they both want to be the first to get the funnies, and sometimes read some of the other brightly colored sections.

But my younger son lingered when he saw a page full of other cartoons. I explained they were political cartoons, all about government. His eyes glazed over, and I assumed I had lost him. But then he asked what made these cartoons different than the funnies. And I explained that most political cartoons use metaphor to tell jokes or make arguments. And I found myself trying to explain the metaphors in each cartoon. Scatalogical jokes aside, he was eager to understand each “symbol.”

I have found myself discussing the importance of metaphor with clients, colleagues, and friends a lot lately. I think metaphor has become an integral element of a company’s success or person’s sense of purpose. There’s a reason so many people have certain images tattooed on their body. There’s a reason companies pay branding specialists so much money to design logos to represent the company.

A facile metaphor is still rich with meaning. But the person who can really explore metaphor and simile can unearth an entirely new way of looking at a scenario. It’s the metaphor that makes the Pinot Noir conversation in “Sideways” unforgettable, or Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings empowering, or the Budweiser Clydesdale a perennial inspiration. Metaphors move mountains.