From archetypes to marquetypes
Many marketers are familiar with the idea of brand archetypes. But archetypes are often misunderstood to be an alternative to brand positioning rather than an integral part of it.
1. Soft and fluffy?
There are many myths about brand archetypes including the common belief that archetypes are at the ‘soft and fluffy’ end of marketing. In fact, Jung’s ideas about archetypes as powerful non-conscious ‘complexes’ is paralleled today in neuroscience by Damasio’s work showing somatic markers as powerful non-conscious triggers to clusters of emotional associations.
If we use archetypes well, we can tap into powerful and widely-shared emotional triggers that have been present in us from childhood, such as associations between parenting and feeding/nurturing. It’s not surprising that ‘motherhood and apple pie’ is a powerful idea!
Even so, working with archetypes in a data-driven marketing culture isn’t helped by the fact that we can’t ask consumers directly about them. By their very nature, they are non-conscious and inaccessible so it is nonsense to ask survey respondents 'is this brand a caregiver?' Instead, we need to combine valid consumer behavioural data with expert understanding of the neuropsychology of archetypes. (If you’ve read The Hero and The Outlaw, you’ll remember that Carol Pearson’s model was tested using consumer data.)
2. Psychology + Insights from data = Marquetypes™
With the help of partners at TGI Insights, we’ve been testing our psychological models against behavioural data on brands for a few years now. This has reinforced what we hypothesised: to get to a good understanding of your brand archetype, you need to explore the motivational patterns of the brand vision, your customers’ needs, tensions and jobs-to-be-done and your competitive marketplace. A triangulation of brand, customer and market provides clarity and structure. We call this approach ‘Marquetypes’ to emphasise that it’s about brand (‘marque’) positioning.
For example, suppose you want to create a perfume brand. An obvious approach might be to position against the key category associations of intimacy and sensuality that are conventionally linked to the ‘lover’ archetype. But that is a crowded territory and you’ll need to do more to be distinctive.
3. Consumer archetypes in perfume
If we look at consumer motivations in perfume, we do see that people with ‘lover motivations’ buy into the category broadly so it makes sense that the category as a whole is centred on intimacy and sensuality.
However, consumers with ‘hero’ characteristics such as persistence and a motivation to conquer have the strongest category involvement and their number one brand is J’adore from Dior. We can view J’adore (“I love”) as a lover brand that provides a balancing intimacy and ‘ultimate femininity’ for today’s heroic women.
Chanel communicates many ruler triggers, as do most prestige perfumes, but performs strongly with 3 different consumer archetypes. For the ruler consumer, the brand acts as a badge of identity. For the innocent consumer, who desires perfection but needs an easy solution, what could be easier than choosing an iconic perfume brand to guarantee perfection? Everyman consumers have a need to fit in and belong. What role do you think Chanel plays in their lives?
Douglas Holt was right to say that iconic brands target cultural tensions but they also target psychological tensions. Brands are a tool for identity creation and they resonate emotionally by targeting those tensions in various ways. To build iconic brands, it is essential to understand those psychological tensions and to target them distinctively.
4. How to work with a Marquetypes approach to positioning
If you are a brand leader and want to use this approach yourself, here are the critical success factors:
1. Understand your customers: but recognise that customers do not always know what they really think and feel. Use a combination of psychological expertise and behavioural data to go beyond what people say. Get a clear view of their psychological tensions.
2. Dig deep into your brand vision: understand your purpose and the motivations behind the creation of the brand. If you stray too far from them, you will lack authenticity. For well-established brands, this might require digging into the archives.
3. Think through competitive scenarios: consider competitors’ options in response to your positioning, including their ability to outspend you or out manoeuvre you in any way. We often work through a structured war games approach to competitive scenarios.
4. Make your choices strategically: some positioning options might be more helpful for challenger or disruptive strategies others for maintaining market leadership.
5. Build alignment: involve key stakeholders in the process from the start and use well-structured frameworks to ensure understanding. Move quickly from a positioning document, centred on brand meaning and role to briefs for implementation through communication, products and services and customer relationship.
The Prize: alignment and sharpness
From our experience, taking this logical, step-by-step approach with well-structured analysis and clearly-defined choices results in sharper positioning. Just as important: it enables everyone involved to explain the chosen positioning in the language of marketing and business not the language of archetypal theory.
Archetypes are rarely talked about in the same breath as neuromarketing but we are convinced that they belong there along with other expert tools of meaning analysis (such as semiotics and discourse analysis) combined with data analytics to support robust consumer-driven marketing.
Sandra Pickering is founding partner of www.opento.com a brand consultancy specialising in practical applications of neuromarketing and consumer science. Read more from them in our Gym.