Brand metaphors work best when the source is radically different from the target. When they’re too close, the viewer’s brain isn’t sure whether to handle the comparison literally or figuratively. A wide difference between the source and target also increases the likelihood the experience generated from the brand metaphor will be unique and memorable compared to what’s already available in the marketplace.
For example, “Brown Family Medicine is a world-class brain surgeon” is an ineffective brand metaphor because family medicine and brain surgery are too close together. Instead of associating the positive attributes of a brain surgeon to the practice, a parent might simply wonder if they’ve brought their sick child to the wrong place.
However, a brand metaphor like “Brown Family Medicine is the 1927 Yankees” could work well because any visual, written, or sensory elements derived from that brand metaphor would be taken figuratively. No patient would ever mistakenly assume the practice is actually the 1927 Yankees baseball team.
The similarities between the source in the target should generally be experiential or emotional in nature, rather than objective and practical. This reduces the amount of cognitive dissonance felt by consumers, and allows them to simply enjoy the experience and benefit from a consistently presented message.