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čtvrtek, února 07, 2013

Are "archetypes" becoming the new "USP"?




A few years ago, introducing archetypes into the marketing discourse sounded like a good idea. It still may be a good idea today. I am advocating it myself as one of the powerful tools of anchoring brands in a meaningful narrative pattern. However, increasingly I am seeing ugly examples of throwing the framework around just to spice-up the otherwise dull corporate marketing practice. Because we have been working with archetypes for years with our clients, I would like to highlight a few pitfalls and bottlenecks which are potentially looming on your way to using this approach effectively.

First and foremost, archetypes have not been invented by Procter & Gamble. They lend themselves readily for marketing and branding purposes but they didn't come to life to make you consume your soda more ardently or with a strong sense of meaning. Archetypes - as a set of relatively universal narrative and symbolic structures - entered the limelight in the early 20th century in the work of Carl Gustav Jung. In Jung's rendering they were deep structures found in myths, fairy tales, great cultural narratives and, at the same time, in our psyche where they served as coding systems for meaning in our lives. Archetypes were above all meant as interpretative tools helping the analyst and the patient understand the nature of challenges they've been going through and, eventually, heal the soul of the patient. This is not to say that archetypes shouldn't or couldn't shed some light also on your marketing practice. You just should be aware of the limits and origins of the tool and you should be threading lightly when dealing with archetypes. They come from a realm much more essential than consumption.

Second, archetypes are biggest help if you use them as strategic tool to imagine the potential of your brand. Rarely I found much sense in running "archetypal research" of a particular category or brand resulting in a bunch of charts and tables which will tell you something like this:
Your brand of processed cheese is perceived as 85% being in line with the archetype of The Hero whereas it is perceived as 15% being aligned with the archetype of The Innocent. In your brand positioning you should be moving towards north-northeast on the archetypal grid to take advantage of the biggest cluster of unmet needs in your market."
Archetypes are all about storytelling and that rarely happens in Excel.

Third, archetypes work best if your ambition is to move them beyond advertising. The best archetypal brands don't just use their master narrative in ads, brochures, annual reports, or on their corporate website. They know that their central archetype in fact creates the business they are in. Anyone familiar with the formative and per-formative powers of metaphors (see for example Lakoff's and Johson's classic Metaphors We Live by) will know that dealing in language in to a vast extent is dealing in reality. What a waste then when you see archetypes being taken hostage by marketing and advertising people instead of being understood and interpreted by the whole company - as their master-plan for business development.
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