In order to survive, humans rely upon comparing what is happening to them in the present with what happened to them in the past. Based on previous experiences and memories stored, our brain helps us live.

For example, when you walk into an elevator, your brain automatically tells you ‘this is an elevator’ and based on past experiences, you know how it works. You don’t have to ‘re-learn’ an elevator. Subconsciously, your brain makes a connection between all the elevators you’ve experienced in the past, and connects it with any new elevator you will experience. This ‘connection’ is a form of analogy and our brain does this all the time, often without us knowing. In their book, “Surfaces and Essences,” Hofstadter and Sander call this connection a ‘brain rainbow,’ or ‘brainbow.’

In advertising, analogies and metaphors are everywhere. The motivational power of an ad often depends on the analogies and metaphors used. A well-chosen metaphor will vastly improve the strength of an ad.

Let’s shift our focus to application. Nike’s slogan: Just Do It.


This is extremely powerful. It seems vague, yet it is also extremely focused. How? It means something different to all of us. To a young boy in Indiana, it could mean shooting 500 jump shots a day to perfect his form in order to make the team. To a girl in North Carolina, it could mean taking extra reps after Lacrosse practice. The point is that Nike has successfully tied its brand image (athletes doing what is necessary to gain an edge) into a tagline we all can relate to through our own personal experiences.

Spokespeople as Analogy

Analogy appears in many forms in advertising, one being spokespeople. The recent Mac vs. PC campaign embodies this notion. In this campaign, Apple brought its trendy, creative persona to life by using Justin Long as the cool Mac character. Meanwhile his counterpart played the analytical, always defeated PC.


The stickiness of this campaign is why it turned into a global success. The stickiness of this campaign can be explained using the book ‘made to stick’ by Chip and Dan Heath, where stickiness is explained as an idea that is:


Yes, the actors playing Mac and PC were different in the UK, but the demographic Apple was targeting remained unmistakable – sticking in the long-term memory of consumers, regardless of region.

UK Apple

Now let’s break down an example of a spokesperson creating a ‘brainbow’ in our own minds. When Buick launched their campaign centered around the car’s ability to “let me audible,” who better to endorse the luxury ride than the master of the audible: Peyton Manning, Quarterback of the Denver Broncos.


Instantly, the viewer understands the analogy without having to be told. Subconsciously, the viewer pulls the stored memories of Peyton’s antics at the line of scrimmage over the years and seamlessly associates those attributes to the car.

Analogies Gone Too Far

Here is an interesting thought: Can a brand be too sticky? Or in other words, can the product be tied too strongly to the brand? Sometimes, brands do such a good job pairing a product with their brand that the product becomes the brand. In other words, the ‘brainbow’ is so strong that the brand cannot be removed from the product. Examples include Kleenex, Frisbee, Band-Aid and Xerox.


The downside of becoming a household name is the risk that it may eventually be applied to other brands. Even more dangerously, they might lose legal protection because the name has become so common.

Analogy Moving Forward

In this digital era, mobile devices reign supreme. Companies far and wide are creating their own apps available for download. As this continues, companies are increasingly using analogy as apart of their app creative: the icon.


In this app icon for Amazon, there are four different analogies:

  1. The shopping cart: While you aren’t physically putting items into a shopping cart, the idea is the same – you store the items you intend to purchase until checkout.
  2. The smile: the ease and convenience of the shopping experience leaves consumers happy, wanting to return for more.
  3. A to Z (connected by the smile): This illustrates the vast array of items available, made accessible through the simplicity of a search engine.
  4. The company name itself: It has been widely documented that Jeff Bezos, after feeling uncertain about a few names, ventured through the A section of the dictionary and immediately stopped when he reached the word Amazon. Amazon is the name of the earth’s largest river. It is now the name of earth’s largest online retailer.

Analogy and Ameritest

At Ameritest, we incorporate analogy as the key component of our methodology: the Flow of Meaning. This is one of our proprietary techniques that measure the response to the visuals in a given ad. Respondents are shown images from the ad, one by one, and provided a list of key meanings (typically driven by the creative brief).  They are then asked to assign which meaning(s) best fit each image.

Force FOM

The image’s ability to evoke a specific meaning in a viewer’s mind depends on how strong the analogy is during that sequence. If it is strong, the meaning is likely to break through, allowing viewers to associate or stick that meaning back to the brand.

Metaphors and analogies are everywhere in advertising. The stronger the link, or brainbow you are able to create, the more likely your brand is to succeed. If you’d like to find out how the Flow of Meaning can help strengthen your brand perception, please contact us at