Extend the metaphor to make a worn-out phrase new again
Call it a cliché makeover.
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, breathes new life into old, worn-out phrases in his 2006 letter to shareholders.
His secret: extending the original metaphor the cliché was based on. Here, he personifies Mother Nature as a real person:
“Our most important business, insurance, benefited from a large dose of luck: Mother Nature, bless her heart, went on vacation. After hammering us with hurricanes in 2004 and 2005 — storms that caused us to lose a bundle on super-cat insurance — she just vanished. Last year, the red ink from this activity turned black — very black.”
By extending the cliché “sleep easy at night” with “mattress,” Buffett gives this tired phrase new life. (Back story: Berkshire reinsured Equitas so its “names,” or underwriters, don’t have to worry about huge claims bankrupting the firm and themselves):
“Scott Moser, the CEO of Equitas, summarized the transaction neatly: ‘Names wanted to sleep easy at night, and we think we’ve just bought them the world’s best mattress.'”
A.G. Edwards also uses this technique in its “nest egg” ad series. The investment firm revives one of my least-favorite clichés by making it visual and extending it as far as it can go. One result: a Silver Anvil award.
Instead of eliminating your next cliché, see if you can take it further. By doing so, you might just resurrect it.