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April 17, 2024

How to Use Analogies to Make Complex Numbers Resonate // Local Marketing Insider #078

What 4% and BMW can teach us about better writing.

Hey! Welcome to Local Marketing Insider, where 15,000+ local marketing professionals improve their reputation strategy and more with insights delivered monthly.


Observation is a great tool for marketers.

My observations of others influence much of Widewail’s marketing.

It's how this newsletter begins: I sit down to write this with a core idea in my head. Usually, I’ve picked it up in passing and written it down, saving it for writing blocks.

The writing process then becomes giving the idea structure and a little story. 

In recent years, I’ve discovered the value of learning through observation and applying those insights to my work. The “skill” is learning techniques and strategies from others without them directly teaching their concepts. 

A useful tangent: Look for marketing inspiration in industries different from your own, more progressive ones. Copy the ideas you like, translate them to your industry, and your strategy will quickly become new and unique.

Today’s takeaway is one of those observations. It’s small but tactical. It will immediately make your marketing writing clear and vivid, giving it resonance.

Using Analogies to Explain Large Numbers

It was a Monday a few months back. Per tradition, I listened to The Prof G pod on my way to work. 

Microsoft had reported earnings the week before. AI headlined the story. Predictably, the markets loved it. 

The show's host, Scott Galloway, was talking fast, really fast, with excitement.

“Microsoft stock popped 4%. They added the value of BMW in one day.

….wait, what? 

It added the entire value of a 108-year iconic luxury automaker…in one day?

That stuck with me. 

I’m not a stock analyst and know little about Microsoft's financial details. 

Despite this, Microsoft's enormity became abundantly clear at that moment, as did the value and influence AI has on the market.

All it took was a 9-word analogy.

I looked up the current enterprise value of Microsoft this week: $3.14T.

4% of $3.14T is $125B—companies worth around $125B: Goldman Sachs, Lowe’s.

Microsoft is worth 25 Lowe’s put together. Lowe’s would need 42,000 stores and 7.5M employees to match the size of Microsoft. That’s a lot of 2x4s.

Here’s what I learned.

If Scott had simply said, “the stock gained 4%,” it would have had no lasting impact on me. 4% is a small number, right? 

Before this week, I had no idea how much Microsoft was worth.

But, by contextualizing the gain in terms of adding the value of another company, one I know well, the insight became much more valuable and made my understanding more clear. 

This is why I listen to Prof G. It’s insightful, yet communicated clearly and vividly using analogy and metaphor.

My prompt to my team – and for you next time you write is: How can this number or concept be explained through analogy?

Some Examples

The Amazon rainforest is 6.7M square kilometers -> 2x the size of India

Volvo Group is worth $52B -> Mcdonald’s + Southwest Airlines

The odds of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Northwest are 14% -> “The odds of a 9.0 quake impacting the coastal Pacific Northwest over the next 50 years are said, by seismologists, to be about 14%. Maybe you’ll take those odds and bet against it happening. They’re not terrible, after all: about the same that an NFL kicker will miss a 37-yard field goal. On the other hand, about the same odds — 15% (as estimated by The New York Times on Election Day morning, 2016) — were attached to a Donald Trump triumph over Hillary Clinton.”

The deepest part of the ocean is Challenger Deep, at 35,000 feet -> Mt. Everest + Mt. Washington (NH)

Pick Your Analogies with the Audience in Mind

Jacqui, the author of the earthquake article mentioned above, makes a good point: pick your analogies wisely. 

Among cultures that do not follow American football, the field goal-kicking example will have little impact. The better your analogies align with your audience's experiences, the more impactful they become.

I want to thank you all for sticking with me bi-weekly for the last 77 articles. I hope you've found them enjoyable.

Sometimes, change is necessary. I'll now be sending the Insider once a month.

In recent months, we added a new newsletter, The REV, to our lineup. The REV ranks, explores and visualizes automotive reputation and sentiment data based on the Widewail Automotive Reputation Index dataset. Subscribe here.

On May 2nd, we are launching a new data newsletter specific to the residential real estate market: The Resident—more details to come soon.

To ensure the appropriate time, I'll write each newsletter once per month. I'm excited to share all of these new ideas with our readers! Subscribe to follow along.

Additionally, we just launched widewail.com/data. Check it out.

See you next month - Jake, Marketing @Widewail



Jake Hughes

I’m the Director of Marketing here at Widewail, as well as a husband and new dad outside the office. I'm in Vermont by way of Boston, where I grew the CarGurus YouTube channel from 0 to 100k subscribers. I love the outdoors and hate to be hot, so I’m doing just fine in the arctic Vermont we call home. Fun fact: I met my wife on the shuttle bus at Baltimore airport. Thanks for reading Widewail’s content!

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