Think about the last qualitative research study you worked on. Maybe you conducted some focus groups on positioning, concept testing, packaging design, copy testing or branding research . If that sounds familiar, you might have even done a few exercises where participants discussed the differences between brands and advertising. And, you might have even asked questions such as how is Brand X different than Brand Y.? You probably spent a lot of time drilling down on all the different product attributes and benefits or even do some laddering to uncover the core values of a brand or product, right?

But what happens after the research is completed? Researchers typically struggle to make sense of the various adjectives participants offer; merging then into cohesive themes. Oftentimes, it is difficult to cluster participants’ feelings into meaningful stories. Instead, the more logical is reported; categorizing the associations by positive feelings about Brand X and negative feelings about Brand Y. So what value does a laundry list of verbatim adjectives really provide clients?

As qualitative researchers, we work to elicit feelings from consumers in order to provide valuable underlying information about brand imagery and emotional drivers. Unfortunately, researchers and the brand time rarely have or take the time to think deeply about the brand: its history, how it’s viewed, what it means to people on an emotional level as well as its future aspirations in relationship to the consumer.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a useful tool to help us get to meaningful connections; one that helps us pull together associations that make sense and can be used for future branding strategies...

Consider Archetypes

So what are archetypes and where does the idea come from? The concept of archetypes actually originates in Plato’s concept of ideals and patterns. In the mid-1900’s psychologist Carl Jung took Plato’s thinking a step further and developed “psychological archetypes” defined as: “characteristic patterns that pre-exist in the collective psyche of the human race that repeat themselves eternally in the psyche of individual human beings and determine the basic ways that we perceive and function as psychological beings.”

Robert Johnson, Innerwork. Jung defined it as “forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constituents of myths and at the same time as individual products of unconscious origin” (C.G. Jung, Psychology and Religion). The premise is that people come into the world with patterns of instinctual behavior waiting to be developed, awakened and explored. Psychologist Erik Erickson then identified three psychosocial stages of life that everyone goes through, and they are: the preparation stage for separation (dependence), the journey to find the individual (independence), and the return to community (interdependence).

Carol Pearson then took Jung’s concept of psychological archetypes coupled with Erickson’s life stages and developed twelve distinct archetypal personalities that serve as natural inner guides that we use as we go through life.

Below is a brief description of the twelve archetypes:

Preparation stage

The Innocent – defined as the pure and trusting part of us that retains faith regardless of personal experience
The Orphan – the part that has been betrayed, abused or abandoned
The Caregiver – the ability to nurture and care for others and ourselves
The Warrior – the ability to protect and defend ourselves and set limits and goals

Archetypes of the Soul Journey

The Seeker – the need to search for something different, seek meaning, explore and wander.
The Lover – the ability to care, to bond to make commitments and have passion.
The Creator – the ability to open the imagination and bring forth something that never existed before.
The Destroyer – the ability to choose to let go and rid yourself of things that no longer support your values

Archetypes of the Return

The Ruler – the ability to use all of our resources and to take responsibility for ourselves and others.
The Sage – the ability to attain wisdom, seek truth
The Magician – the ability to change what needs to be changed by acting on our own visions
The Jester – the ability to experience life fully

Knowing these archetypes helps us understand human behavior, how we are living and leads to an understanding of our needs as consumers. These lead to the researcher’s ability to provide clients with insight and appropriate, strategic brand recommendations.

Archetypes are extremely useful in marketing and qualitative research because they are meaningful and symbolic ways for consumers to connect with brands. Understanding archetypal meaning and using psychological principles in marketing is now becoming more of a pre-requisite to effective marketing, whereas in the past, it was considered an extra perk. Scott Bedbury who served as head of marketing at both Nike and Starbucks, said “a brand is a metaphorical story that connects with something very deep− a fundamental human appreciation of mythology…Companies that manifest this sensibility invoke something very powerful.”

And how do you build a great brand?
According to Kelly & Silverstein, building a breakaway brand comes from a deep understanding of the consumer by connecting on a winning mindset: a powerful, aspirational, shared view of life amongst all core audience segments. Great brands require great stories and great stories are built around a character. Think about the people you know, everyone’s personality fits with one of the twelve archetypes, right? Well if you think about the top brands, most of them have symbolic and aspirational stories: ones that connect with something very deep in consumers. And, in order for brands to connect with consumers, consumers’ needs and lifestyle need to be understood.

These original archetypes still exist and apply to contemporary marketing and in this case are used as universally recognized patterns (not stereotypes because stereotypes are often negative associations) which recur in society and help us to understand, recognize and assimilate the world. They can be used to guide the direction of brand communication to a deep-seated place within the human psyche, and in turn, it is easier for consumers to identify with brands that have archetypal meaning.

Mark and Pearson in their book: The Hero and the Outlaw – Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes, define the twelve archetypes expressed most often in pop-culture today. Below is a list of the different archetypes, what their primary function is and an example of a brand that exemplifies the archetype (unfortunately the scope of this paper does not permit an explanation of each):

So, take a moment to think about some of the great global brands: Disney, Coke, Apple, Nike and Starbucks, they all have great stories in common and are consistently represented by one of the twelve universal archetypes.

Brands such as Disney (know for being the happiest place on earth) and Coke (slogan: It’s the real thing) are all traditional brands that promise an experience of paradise and happiness with their brand; thus, classifies the brands as Innocent archetypes. How about Apple computers? Ever notice that their logo is an apple with a bite out of it (which symbolizes the forbidden fruit in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and in this case represents forbidden knowledge) and their motto is Think Different. The Apple brand is the ultimate Outlaw archetype: the brand stands for independent thinking and creativity and is known for being the anti-corporate computer. Take the brand Nike, the preeminent hero archetype. The brand’s long-standing mission (which enables and inspires athletes to perform at their best) is Just do it. Historically, the name “Nike” is actually the name of the Greek goddess of victory. No wonder top athletes in each sport (such as Michael Jordan) are often spokesmen for Nike!

How about Starbucks, the cultural phenomenon. Notice the logo − it is an image of a female sea goddess (a cross between a mermaid and siren). Then, the masculine name, Starbuck, was actually the name of the first mate on the whaling ship in the classic story of Moby Dick. Starbucks, the ultimate explorer archetype, delivers on its explorer theme consistently in its logo, name, packaging, product and service. The product is and becomes whatever you want, desire and create; there are endless coffee and non-coffee choices, combinations and possibilities for the exploring customer. The service delivers on customization of the consumer’s beverage down to the most intricate detail. Notice, how they even ask customers for their name while creating beverages and write your name on the cup; this signifies that it is your cup of coffee, made to order for you.

These examples demonstrate that the brand image (the external meaning intended by marketers such as the merchandising, packaging and logo), is consistent with the brand essence (the internal meaning interpreted by the customer experience). Imagine if they were not consistent and a brand, such as a retailer, is trying to position itself as a Caregiver archetype, one that is trying to help and provide products that help customers with their busy lives, but instead does not successfully deliver on its intended mission and instead customers perceive the in-store experience brand as having poor customer service with disgruntled employees. When brands fail to match up with an archetypal identity and if there are noticeable inconsistencies between the brands image and essence, they are usually less successful. Next time you conduct qualitative research, take some time to understand the archetype of the brand. Then when you conduct the interviews/focus groups you’ll be able to see if all dimensions and elements of the brand like merchandising, store environment, labels, shopping experience, neighborhood/community, packaging, etc. deliver on the archetypal personality.

Additionally, ethnographies are especially useful in brand and archetypal analysis because it allows for rich insights into consumers lives by observing, interacting, and discussing how the brands and products fit in consumers lives. Projective techniques such as story telling, personification, laddering, role playing and word bubbles enable participants to express subconscious feelings about the brand or product and thus bring the brand to life to see if it’s on par with the intended archetypal meaning.

When doing brand and advertising research, two fundamental questions need to be evaluated: first, is the brand story clear, consistent and understood by consumers so consumers will connect with the brand on an emotional level; second, does the brand story align with one of the twelve universal archetypes?

An effective method is outlined below:

Before fieldwork, do some homework and a pre-immersion session to get relevant information and learn factual research on your brands image: such as the history, who created it, when was it created, how it is positioned, who does it appeal to and how is it doing in category.

Then, conduct qualitative research to uncover the brand essence: the raw materials and brand truth such as, what is the relationship consumers have with the brand, why do they use the brand, in what circumstances, what is the brand known for, how do consumers use the brand, and how does it fit into their lives? It is essential to understand the role of the brand: what jobs does the brand fulfill? What I mean by jobs is based upon Christensen book The Innovators Solution, where he argues that customers hire products to do specific jobs. For instance, a cup of coffee in the morning could serve many jobs: to wake me up, to put something warm in my body or to while away the time on a boring commute to work. Knowing what underlying jobs a product gets “hired to do” can give brands a competitive advantage to improve and deliver on their products so they fulfill the intended job.

Generate conclusions about the brands archetype to see if it aligns with one of the twelve universal ones. Is it the appropriate archetype? Is the archetype relevant and meaningful to the target market? Is the archetype consistent with the brand’s image and essence?

Assess the archetypes of the competitive set: understand how the brand is performing against competitors, does the competitive set live up to the intended archetypes? Is there an opportunity for a new archetype in the category? Think about what will differentiate your brand from another and make sure you deliver you message in a clear, consistent, meaningful and aspirational story.

If you would like to learn more about archetypes and branding, I recommend the following six books:

* Lieberman Research Worldwide, Los Angeles, CA

Original source:

1 comentario:

Cristina Quiñones D. dijo...

Pablo: Creo que los arquetipos representan un mecanismo fundamental para la gestación de la personalidad e imagen de marca. Es aquí donde ser revela el poder de la psicología profunda y el imaginario colectivo. Te felicito por haber incluido este maravillo post. Estoy segura que la comunidad de investigadores, consultores y docentes en insights y técnicas cualitativas te lo agradecerán. Continúa en la senda!!! Un abrazo desde Perú, Cristina Quiñones.