Anne Miller — Words Matter Make What You Say Pay!
Presentation & Sales Specialist
Author | Speaker | Coach
Words Matter – Make What You Say Pay!


Metaphor Minute: Catnip or Caviar




February 23, 2011

Catnip or Caviar?

A portfolio manager client crystallizes the return advantages an investor can expect using an asset allocation strategy vs. a straight stock selection strategy by saying, "The difference in the results of these two strategies when you retire will determine whether you eat caviar or catnip for the rest of your life." Which do you want?

Hold the catnip. Bring on the caviar, thank you.

Opposites Attract Attention
In a world where whatever you are selling or advocating frequently sounds very similar to what the other guy is saying, using opposing images is an effective way to make your point. Examples abound in the media. Here are some followed by how these could transfer to business.

  1. In discussing how the fortunes of GMAC soured shortly after a $7.2 billion infusion of capital from private equity firm Cerberus in 2006, Allan Sloan in Fortune captures the essence of the disaster by saying, "The ink had barely dried when GMAC's mortgage business, much of it subprime, turned from a crown jewel into toxic waste. The world financial system began imploding, GMAC ran out of borrowing power and got government help to stay afloat in late 2008."

  2. In an article on President Reagan in Time, the writer notes that while "Franklin Roosevelt established political norms that lasted half a century...the life jacket of one generation can become the straitjacket of the next...." so, while Reagan's boyhood hero was the New Deal president, Reagan’s thinking radically changed and he became the leader of a crusade for a conservative government.

  3. Obama completely reversed the American political calculus of the 1980's and ‘90's. He made the Democrats the party of optimism and the Republicans the party of root canal." Joe Klein,Time, 2/7/11

  4. Mike Milken, advocating for health care investment, in The Wall Street Journal concludes his argument for healthcare: "Improved public health translates directly into greater national productivity, which underpins all economic growth. So, let's get our priorities straight. America's economy used to be the sun - the gravitational center - in the 'solar system' of leading nations. In the future, we'll no longer be the sun. But, by investing in our own health, we can help solidify our position as Jupiter, the largest planet."

Translate to Business
Think how you talk about your firm in its competitive space. "We may not be as large as X, the sun, but we are certainly Jupiter, a very large presence in the digital universe."

Think how you describe a process, approach, methodology, system. "Program A will energize your employees while Program B will make their work feel like root canal."

Think how you argue for or against different options. "Which new hire will become our crown jewel and which risks becoming toxic waste?"

Think how you advocate change to the status quo. "What was our life jacket client base for the last ten years has become a straitjacket for us as these clients have seen their businesses go overseas."

My examples for this newsletter often come from business, news, and media because I read these regularly. No matter what media you read, you will find similar images as well. Don't just ride by them. Stop. Look. Take a mental snapshot. Better yet, write the good ones down. Then use them to your advantage at the appropriate moment.

Make what you say pay — with metaphors.

Anne Miller

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"The Metaphor Minute" is a brief monthly note with examples from business, media, or politics that illustrate the power of metaphors and analogies to make a point, solve a problem, and get results. Use these stories to stimulate high pay-off metaphoric thinking in your business. © 2009. Anne Miller. -- PERMISSION TO REPRINT -- Feel free to reprint in company newsletters or articles. Just include ©2011, Anne Miller, author, "Metaphorically Selling,"

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