Use of Conceptual Metaphors, Rhetoric and Poetic Techniques in Social Media and Marketing

It is generally accepted that conceptual metaphors tend to explain more abstract notions by means of the less abstract ones. This creates a rather interesting dynamics of the phenomenon as physical properties and concepts that can be observed in one notion are transmitted into the concept that is being explained. For this paper, the conceptual metaphor of love will be used, whereby the word love will be of target domain and other words, including the word pain, hidden in parts of expressions containing these conceptual metaphors will serve as explanation and elaboration and, therefore, will be the source domain of the metaphor.

Such conceptual metaphor as “love is pain” has been used to create a mapping between the two concepts to interpret how they are interconnected. What is interesting, pain is also a rather abstract notion and nothing more than a subjective feeling just like love. However, when it comes to characteristics, one can describe pain in ways that it will turn out to be much more bodily. For example, one can observe burns, scratches, and bruises that are consequences of a certain force exerted on the human body or are generally an impact of an external factor. Physical pain is likely to leave a scar and last a certain amount of time; one can point out exactly where the painful spot is; and so on. This way, the initial speculation that the conceptual metaphor would normally be used for designating something more abstract by means of something more concrete also holds true in this case.

In order to reveal correspondences between the target and source domains, it is necessary to take a look at a larger amount of conceptual metaphors that represent a unity of concepts of love and pain. Such expressions as “love is blindness”, “I am sick of this love”, “love is agony”, “love is war”, “love will tear us apart”, “to love is to suffer”, “to love is to sacrifice”, “this love is a heavy weight on my chest”, “love is a struggle”, “I am crazy in love”, “love is madness”, “I am broken-hearted”, and “my heart is a mess” reflect how much love is associated with physical suffering. Some features are shared by each source group. Such notions as destruction, a certain change in a normal order of things, and losses are similar for all those expressions containing the given conceptual metaphor. Some of them can be characterized by apparition of measurement of time (love is blindness, while blindness is incurable, thus they are everlasting), measurement of weight (heavy weight on one’s chest), or fragility of things (“I am broken-hearted”). It is certainly true that unfortunate love experiences leave a trace on one’s perception of this feeling and it is often associated with physical suffering. Human physiology is such that during a love ordeal one can even complain of physical pain, which they blame on being unhappy, stemming from such basic feelings as disappointment, low self-esteem, remorse, reproach, and jealousy. People sometimes even insist that they can literally feel their broken heart and make themselves believe it is so.

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However, the target domain love does not exceptionally come up in negative connotations. In fact, for the media love that is secularly regarded as a cause of moral and even physical pain is normally used in a positive connotation for marketing purposes. It is simply a feeling that designates a bond that is stronger than liking, but weaker than obsession (and, most optimal, in this case love in marketing shows a priority number one for a consumer). In social media and marketing, there is a certain amount of business categories that connect to the word love and use conceptual metaphors to compel customers into certain choices. This is actually no wonder: social media and marketing are intended to make the consumer believe that buying products or services from certain businesses will make him or her happy. Hence, conceptual metaphors that use word love in a negative connotation would be contradictory to the principles of efficient marketing.

However, such expressions as “all you need is love”, “share the love”, “love is oxygen for the soul”, “This little crazy thing called love” “love is like gasoline for your relationship”, “spread the love”, “can’t buy me love”, “I found love”, “love knows no boundaries”, “love has no age” “give a gift of love”, and “give the love” are used in a positive meaning and are popular with marketing and social media. There is a certain pattern that becomes evident upon looking at these examples: love in its positive context is described as something irreplaceable and necessary to not just survive, but also to live a full life (“all you need is love”). This can be wittily used for marketing purposes: Coca-Cola brand, as well as Hallmark offers its customers to share love. The Coca-Cola Company has even created bottles with names that could be given as gifts to people bearing these names. This is a cunning way of getting love in the bottle and finally selling the customer everything they need. The pressuring need to give and share love can also be observed in the expression “give a gift of love” that usually compels a consumer to buy a certain product because it symbolizes their feelings for someone.

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Usage of symbols such as hearts, cupids, doves, and red/pink color usually would trigger an association with the concept of love in one’s brain. In this case, the conceptual metaphor is so deeply imbedded and vastly intercultural that most people recognize the concept of love with only some graphic representation.

A slogan “Love is oxygen for the soul” creates a conceptual metaphor that is also associated with the most important process of human activity, which is breathing. Subconsciously, everybody realizes that without food one can live for three weeks, without water for three days, and without oxygen people are doomed after 3 minutes of deprivation of this vital substance. Therefore, if love is really oxygen for the soul, this, at the first glance, positive connotation could trigger negative associations immediately, submerging a potential consumer into unconscious fear: if one does not have love, their soul will die. If their soul dies, so does their body. This can be qualified as an influential conceptual metaphor where the source domain is actually not as innocuous as it might seem. Besides, oxygen can be associated with such concepts as “purity”, “invisibility”, ”omnipresence”, and “transparency”. People exposed to such slogans in marketing and social media will interpret the slogan as something calling for purification, adding harmony and balance to their life, but also facing the inevitable, something that exists within them and around them. They think in terms of volume occupied by oxygen, being subconsciously manipulated into paying close attention to such slogan and a product sold under it.

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“Love knows no boundaries” is an especially interesting example of using the word love in marketing. This expression contains a conceptual metaphor “love is supreme being”, which retains properties of a living being: if love knows something, it possesses some cognitive capacities. If it knows no boundaries, it knows everything, which is absolutely unattainable for a human being. Source domain in this case is mapped to the target domain through concepts that are common for living beings: breathing, living, and comprehending, but on a higher and more supreme level. For some people, this expression would mean “Love is God”, but it does not state this explicitly, which creates some extra solidity and less abstraction in the source domain. This is interpreted by people as some universal supreme power and since love really knows no boundaries, they also should not. This gives an encouraging touch to the expression because the abstract notion of love is re-interpreted as something alive, conscious, and extremely powerful.

Poetic and rhetorical techniques are popular in branding for a reason. They increase catchiness of brands, which makes them easy to memorize for people and sometimes a once seen brand name would stick in someone’s memory for years thanks to using an appropriate technique for that. An impact that is created by the use of rhetoric and poetic techniques is another reason why social media and marketing use them in their materials. Incorporating a pun is one of the ways of attracting potential consumer’s attention and it is widely used in marketing. Pun or paronomasia is a witty phrase that also belongs to the category of poetic and rhetorical figures and is used widely for marketing purposes. Puns exploit homophonic words and word junctures to create a certain effect on those who perceive information. Examples of puns in marketing are abundant, for example, “I think therefore I BM” (IBM’s advertisement). This refers to a famous quotation of renowned philosopher Descartes who claimed “I think therefore I exist”. This paronomasia is based on a sound resemblance between the words, but it also uses a well-known phrase with a twist. Another example is Weight Watchers’ campaign for frozen meals: “taste not waist”. Pun in this advertisement slogan is targeted at people watching their weight, e.g. “waist size”; therefore, the message convolutes an idea of a “tasty weight loss” without sacrificing flavors for the sake of staying in shape. “Burton’s menswear is everywear” uses homophonic words to create a rhyme on top of paronomasia, which sends a clear message to customers: products manufactured by Burton are suitable for all occasions. A slogan of Frank Wright Shoes reads “These are Wright for me!” and it uses resemblance between the words “right” and the brand name “Wright”, creating a short but catchy advertisement reinforced by an exclamation mark at the end of it. Asda company uses a slogan “It ‘asda be Asda!”, which also uses juncture of words has to in order to create a slogan containing a pun. Puns are universal and can be used abundantly in the English language. It happens to be that a lot of words sound absolutely similar and their pronunciation can be used for creating advertisement slogans and impacting consumers.

Certain poetic and rhetoric techniques, as well as conceptual metaphors are universal tools for creating powerful messages in social media and marketing as they create a link with consciousness and sub-consciousness of those who perceive this information. This creates a powerful impact and makes people remember slogans much better. They automatically try to interpret what they read and this cognitive process results in a more profound remembering of information.

 

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