What's your Archetype?

20 May 2011|Added Value

Here’s a question: what do Margaret Thatcher and Madonna have in common? You can’t be faulted if an answer isn’t easily forthcoming. True, both are blonde, ruthlessly ambitious and had their heyday in the eighties – although we’re willing to bet that there are no cone-shaped bras hidden in the Iron Lady’s closet. And yet, both fit the description of ‘feisty, independent women, who mean business’.

The major discrepancies between these two characters provide a perfect illustration of why brand personalities are so important. More crucial still is the manner in which these personalities are expressed, and to whom. Enter archetypes, and a whole new way of thinking around brand positioning, as epitomised by our new tool, CharacterLab™.

Archetypes, for those of you who didn’t take Psych I, are a Jungian concept that explains why we have strong perceptions around certain icons. Mention ‘mother’, for example, and your brain is more than likely immediately flooded with a set of very definite ideas. The same applies to terms like ‘lover’ and ‘hero’. Looked at slightly differently, in the words of Wikipedia, archetypes are the “innate universal psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge”.

What does that have to do with your brand? Simple: your brand has a personality, and at the heart of that personality lies an archetype. And here’s the crux: the unique way in which your brand characterises that archetype has a great deal of influence on the success of your brand.

This is where CharacterLab™ comes in. Perhaps you’re unsure of what that character is. Or maybe you have a clear character concept, but you’re putting it across in a manner that undermines it, causing ambiguity and leaving your consumers with a giant question mark. Through game play, and an interactive offering accessed on www.CharacterLab.com, brand teams are given the tools to identify their brand archetype. This may sound obvious, but its importance cannot be underestimated. The stronger your brand archetype, the more readily your audience will recognise and connect with the brand itself.

The problem, though, is this: personalities are fluid, dynamic and often contradictory, rather than staid and simple. Just as you’re capable of being a compulsive handwasher who thinks nothing of leaving your clothes on the bedroom floor, brands are equally sure to be multifaceted.

This is where CharacterLab™ distinguishes itself: it reveals both primary and secondary archetypes, bringing a different level of richness and granularity to the brand. CharacterLab™ presents 12 key archetypes, and by identifying the brand’s secondary archetype, it immediately opens the door to 11 different ‘faces’ of each of the 12. Eleven different styles of hero, eleven different lovers, eleven different rulers…all of which makes intuitive sense the minute you stop and think about Hollywood characters.

Let’s go back to Madge and Margaret: while on the surface they are both powerful Ruler figures (First Lady of British Politics, First Lady of Rock) it’s the deeper details of their personalities that set them worlds apart. Margaret has heroic qualities that Madge would not care for, and Madge has a healthy does of the Outlaw which would not have served Margaret well in the Women’s institutes of middle England.

Another point here: often, it’s the interpretations that different agencies give to the same brief that causes a disconnect in strategy. By allowing them to view different sides of the brand, rather than a single 2D representation, you’re neatly side-stepping this problem.

If the first law of success is to know thyself, CharacterLab™ offers a solid first step. The information gleaned through the tool can be used to find out whether your archetype is the best for your brand; you can test it against competitor archetypes or even try out new archetype directions. Because it’s online, it’s also flexible and any number of people – from five to 500 – can participate. Which ensures some hard facts and figures on a decidedly soft subject

We have a feeling Jung would approve.

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