It was in middle school literature classes that literary tools such as onomatopoeia, sarcasm, and symbolism, were first introduced. I had already learned about onomatopoeia from Mad magazine where the sound effects balloon blasting out of a shotgun in a saloon read, “BARROOM!!” I learned sarcasm from my brother. I never quite got the hang of symbolism.
During classroom critiques, our teacher would point out that when the author used a snake, that character was not really a snake. Instead, it represented evil. “Jeez Louise,” I thought (or something symbolically similar to that) if they wanted it to be evil, why didn’t they just name the character “evil,” instead of confusing everyone with the damn snake?
But now that I’m all grown up I want to impress you with all the fancy editorial techniques at my disposal, including symbolism. So let me be clear, this particular post is written about blogs, I talk about blogs, and the ideas will work on blogs. But it’s not about blogs if you get my thrust (nudge nudge, wink wink). The blog is merely the symbolic device.
Most people who watch beer commercials hate them. They say beer commercials are sexist, offensive, and stupid. Beer commercials play to the lowest common denominator. Beer commercials do nothing for them.
You know who says that? People who don’t buy beer.
Beer commercials are aimed at the folks who do all the beer buying. According to a CBS study, 64% of American adults regularly drink alcohol. Of those, UCLA says 5% of beer drinkers consume 53% of all beer sold. And those beer-drinking guys like those ads.
A couple of years ago I was invited to substitute teach in a marketing class. One of the students asked me what I thought made a good ad. I said something about an engaging visual and a powerful message that caused an emotional response in the reader, hopefully, strong enough to enhance desire and stimulate purchase.
The student said that my explanation was different than what their instructor had said. Her theory was that an ad was good if an alien who just stepped out of a spacecraft could understand it.
Since when do space aliens speak English? Since when do they have mouths to drink beer, feet to wear sneakers, or whatever else they would need in order to consume the product being advertised? And besides, who’s ever heard of space aliens carrying cash or credit cards?
Now let’s think about your blog. Let’s say you have 10,000 subscribers but only 20 of them matter. After all, I already like you. And if I owned a one hundred million dollar company with a $500,000 budget for whatever it is you do, I would hire you in a heartbeat. Really I would. Scout’s honor.
But I don’t.
So if you want to make money, maybe the folks who can hire you (and the people they listen to) are the only readers who ultimately matter.
Want to have fun? Write your blogs for all your readers. Want to make money? Write your blogs for the people who make the decisions about where to plunk down that half million bucks.
The rest of us give you lots of “atta-boys,” make you feel good, and tell you what a gifted writer you are. But last time I checked, your mortgage company won’t accept compliments in lieu of cash. Or beer, for that matter.
If your blog exists to help you make money then what matters most is what the people who can become customers think. And if you aim your prose directly at them, they’ll be much more likely to respond the way you’d like.
But of course I’m not just talking about blogs, am I? Because the blog is just a literary device that represents other, more important, matters. What does the blog represent, you might ask? Sorry, I can’t tell you. Symbolism just works that way.