Fun Analogies and Metaphors at Work


[SOURCE: (c) Byron Villegas, used according to Creative Commons License]

Marketers are very fond of analogies and metaphors, maybe overly fond. A good metaphor helps convey the emotion of a thought. A good analogy can help explain a complex idea.

Much to the amusement and sometimes annoyance of my coworkers, I’m always trying to think in terms of metaphors and analogies.

For you word geeks, you might enjoy this quick post about the differences between an analogy, a simile, and a metaphor:

My coworkers suggested that I start keeping a log of my metaphors and analogies I use in my projects. Maybe I should figure out a voting system for readers to help express which ones are spot on and which ones turn out to be really bad.

Below are some of my more favorite analogies I find myself using a lot.  I’m also starting to keep a list of mixed metaphors and otherwise really bad analogies which I’ll publish when I get enough. Unfortunately, some are so bad I can’t post them ;-)

1. We need chickens! Expanding on the SAP Idea Incubator project (which is an analogy in the brand), I started asking “where do ideas come from?” Well like an egg incubator needs chickens to lay eggs, an idea incubator needs people to spawn ideas – and an innovator to make them fertile. OK, maybe I should have used fish instead…

2. We will continue to drive the promotional initiative of our Big Data Bus. (Yes SAP has a bus, and driving was an unintended metaphor).

3. Regarding the order of your messaging, it sounds like: “I’m taking you out for dinner – you won’t have to do dishes, we’ll have steak, and ice cream for dessert.” Maybe you should talk up dessert first, and the lack of dish washing last.

4. The Yoga practice – “we need someone who can explain what each different configuration is for – kind of like the benefits of each different yoga pose…”

5. The sandwich bar solution – “So our customers sometimes know they need a custom built sandwich to solve their hunger problem.  How do we let them know that we have the very best salami, and how to we know who and why certain customers should want salami in their custom sandwich solution?’

6. The auto parts store – “In an auto parts store, there are those customers – do-it-yourself mechanics – who know exactly which part they need, and which aisle to find it on. Then there are those – like me – who sheepishly wait to talk to the expert at the counter in the back to know what part I need and where to find it. If their instructions are more than three steps, I just take my car to a mechanic instead, because what I really need is reliable transportation, not a car fix-it project.”

7. Intelligent life vs. The Universe: “What’s differentiating about our solar system is that it hosts intelligent life.” “Ya, but we could be anything in the Universe!” “But intelligent life is very rare and hard to find.” “Ya, but The Universe is so big, and it has black holes, and quasars, and supernovas. We can do so many cool things!” “So far, though, nobody else has been able to do intelligent life…”

8. Innovation is like a bacterial colony. It needs a rigid substrate to grow on.


9. Strata is like a fashion show at Macy’s New York to get people to buy the new line of clothes. ApacheCon is like Fashion Week in Paris – no buyers but the next year’s trends are set.

10: This blog’s deadline is behind it, not before it. So its more like making a dish from leftovers in the fridge.  But everyone knows leftovers taste better!

Do you have any fun analogies or metaphors from work to share?


  1. Um, yeah. I read the 7, and pity your poor staff! P.S. I hate salami & don’t do yoga. #1 took too much explaining, #3 is just degrading, #6 is just stupid, and #7? Are you comparing yourself to the Great Creator? So I’ll give you one. Hope you usually score better than that.

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