“Metaphor Deficient”

Here’s a phrase of the day:  “Metaphor deficient.”

Time magazine ran a fascinating article the other week on record producer Rick Rubin.  After reading the article, he’s moved pretty far up my list of people I want to be when I grow up (more on this below), but one of the things that stood out for me was his use of the phrase “metaphor deficient:”

But Zen as he is, Rubin is ruthless with his professional time. He’s inundated with requests for his services, so he asks most prospects to drop by and play him whatever songs they’ve been writing. This eliminates most applicants…. “One of Rick’s favorite phrases is ‘metaphor deficient,'” says [friend comedian Chris] Rock. “If people write things that are metaphor deficient, even he can’t help them.”

While he’s of course referring to it in a musical/lyric sense, I think it’s something that can apply pretty broadly, especially in marketing.  As Seth Godin reminds us frequently, marketing is really about telling stories – about connecting to your target audience with a story and vision that not only resonates with them, but is compelling enough to get them to take action.  And I think stories that are metaphor deficient – that aren’t able to paint that vision in your audience’s mind – face a big uphill challenge.


On the whole “people I want to be when I grow up” thing – I’d recommend reading the whole article and the photo essay (it’s not that long), but here’s someone who admittedly can’t read music, write lyrics, or work a mixing board, but has managed to get the best work out of artists ranging from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the Dixie Chicks to Justin Timberlake.  “Under the Bridge” – him (and while not my favorite track, certainly brought the Chili Peppers to the attention of a lot of new fans).  Getting Johnny Cash to record “Hurt” – him.  He co-founded DefJam records out of his NYU dorm room and was DJ on the Beastie Boys’ License to Ill (again, not a personal favorite, but certainly an album that made a statement).  And hey – I can at least (more or less) read music!

Link:Rick Rubin: Hit Man

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