Life’s a Trip. So is Marketing.
Two weeks ago, my grandmother—nicknamed Busybee—sat up on the edge of her bed. This wasn’t easy for her. She was hooked up to oxygen and hadn’t eaten in days. The doctors thought she had had a small stroke. But, she announced to everybody, she had someplace to go. The bathroom?, we asked. No, she said, Lover’s Lane.
Well, I thought, I hope Grandfather is ready for her.
The nurse tucked Busybee back in, while explained that the dying often dream that they are about to travel. Even to Lover’s Lane? Well, she said, that was a first. I imagined telling my grandmother, during her final breaths with us, that it was okay to walk toward that parked ’32 Buick.
Later, I looked up the curious fact of pre-death travel dreams. They have been recorded throughout history. (See, for example, Nearing Death Awareness by Mary Anne Sanders). They are what Harvard Business School professor emeritus Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman call “deep” metaphors in their book Marketing Metaphoria.
Zaltman and Zaltman reviewed a whopping 12,000 in-depth interviews done in thirty countries. They found that all people share seven transcendent metaphors, regardless of “cultural background, age, gender, education, occupation, political values, consumer experiences, basic beliefs, religious preferences, and almost anything else we can name.” One deep metaphor is a journey (or travel).
“Consumers talk about many aspects in life as a journey,” the Zaltmans wrote. “In fact, we often frame life itself as one big journey, including, for many, an afterlife.…Consider Robert Frost’s famous poem, ‘The Road Not Taken.’”
The six remaining deep metaphors are balance, transformation, container (like an ark), connection, resource, and control. They are powerful predictors of what customers think and how they will react to goods and services, especially new ones. (Death is certainly not new, but, like everything new, it is unknown). For example, consider the Michelin ads showing a baby sitting in a tire; these portray their products as safe “containers.”
You would do well to use metaphors in your marketing, especially deep ones. Metaphors are effective, because our minds react better, or at least first, to the emotional rather than to the rational. For information about creating metaphors, check out Brian Clark’s Magnetic Blogging: How to Use Metaphors to Create Irresistible Content.
Busybee died on Mother’s Day. I don’t know where she is, but I’ve a feeling that she and Grandfather are making out okay.