Mysterious attraction: how archetypes can help the bottom-line
Sylvia has not considered what attracted her to the restaurant on the corner. She would drop by when she felt heavy hearted or when she wanted to celebrate a small victory. She would go to take a quick bite or meet with friends. It was not just the comfort and the food. Nor the polite service. With its inexplicable attraction the restaurant on the corner withstood the changes and constant appearance of new places in the area.
It was not a matter of habit either. Sylvia loved the variety and was not so loyal to other places she visited. There was something in this restaurant which made it fit, as if it were saying to her “you are where you need to be”.
When you sense an impulse in the surrounding world, similar to the inner forces that, consciously or not, define your thoughts, feelings and actions, the attraction is instantaneous. The brand that carries the impulse enters your most inner space. What is expressed by it merges with your self. You find your own longing.
Somehow the brand has become an expression of an archetype – one of the primary principles, proto-images, through which people express themselves and give meaning to their lives.
Any brand, no matter small or large, local or global, can become a bearer of archetypal images and aspirations. In some brands this is the result of purposeful work, in others it can be a side effect.
In any case, it is worth checking how your brand is perceived, whether consumers associate it with an archetypal image and with which one, at least because at the archetype level the strongest connections are created.
How does the use of archetypes in brand development goes beyond just working with values or personas? The point is which attitudes and personas you choose to use. Do they express something so essential that when you recognise it in a brand, something clicks? Or it turns out that the persona you have chosen does not arouse such primary reactions. Archetypes are a good system of reference for the expected potency of the image you are building.
How you can use archetypes in brand management
For already established brands, the goal is to determine what archetype your brand expresses through its communication.
Even if archetypal images were not consciously embedded in the brand, what the brand has communicated since its creation, the stories it was telling, the characters who represented them, may have evoked in the minds of the consumer associations with deeply rooted longings and fundamental life principles.
What can you do:
- Review of communication and ongoing advertising campaigns – with which archetype can you connect them, were there any changes, what does the brand express today.
- Explore consumer perceptions – what is left in the consumer mind from earlier messages and images, how are people touched by the stories and characters, are there associations with archetypal layers.
- Comparison of what you have learned with the values, purpose, principles that guide you in brand management. Are you moving in the right direction?
If you are preparing to introduce a new brand, you have the chance to integrate the appropriate archetype from the very beginning of brand development. What fundamental principle does your brand represent? To be of help, to discover new horizons, to enable people to enjoy the small things in life or maybe to make the world better?
There is no good or bad archetype, just as every human image has its light and dark side. Good implementation of the strategy will emphasize the positive in the image and will not leave any opportunity for associations with undesirable characteristics. For example, the victorious hero may be heartless in his desire to succeed, the leader may become a tyrant, and the explorer may get lost in the search of his uniqueness.
Three steps for successful use of archetypes in branding:
1. Choosing the right archetype
2. Careful building of the image
3. Consistency in communication
What to consider when choosing an archetype:
There are two starting points – to what extent this archetype reflects the values of the brand and to what extent it corresponds to the prevailing attitudes of consumers.
It is also good to study the main competitors in the category – to what extent are these brands associated with archetypal images and with which ones? How much more appealing will be the story you will tell?
In building the image, beware of possible associations with the negative traits that each archetype also carries. Tune in to consumer perceptions.
You may be tempted to mix elements from several archetypes in the image of your brand. If you think of yourself, of the values you are guided by, you will most likely find at least a few active archetypes for you at the moment. Maybe at different stages of your life, a different archetype has prevailed, but all along in your life choices you can find the influence of other archetypes too. For a brand, unlike humans, it is better to focus on one archetypal image in order to send out homogeneous and consistent messages. In any case, we have seen that even a unified and consistently built brand around one archetype triggers associations with various meanings as consumers perceive brand communication through the lenses of their own life experience.
Consistency in communication
Consumer perceptions are long-lasting, some brands stay with us for much of our lives and the memories we have of them intertwine with the present. A change of the archetype of a successful brand can be confusing to consumers and harmful. When the choice of archetype is right and the execution is good so far, the brand can be reinvented and renewed while remaining true to its archetype.
To change the brand archetype is meaningful and justified in case of significant transformations in the market and consumer expectations and can be quite useful in rebranding and repositioning.