Creating your brand’s myth, using archetypes

Screen Shot 2013-01-22 at 17.55.06Guest post from Prasad Narasimhan, our Managing Partner for Asia, based in Bangalore, India.

In London recently, I made my customary
pilgrimage to Hamleys, the ‘Finest Toy Shop in the World’. Even as I pretend to
myself (each time) that I go there to shop for my kids, I know that it is
really all about indulging to the kid in me. There is something special about
the place, a magical cocktail-world of Willy Wonka, Peter Pan & Huckleberry

No other toyshop makes me feel this
way. Of course they all sell toys. But Hamleys sells so much more – magic,
adventure & the opportunity to be a child all over again. Vibrant &
unique, it evokes very distinctive forms & images in the mind, making thousands
like me visit it again & again.

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Brands and archetypes

It is these patterns of forms &
images that we all recognize that Jung labeled ‘Archetypes’. He believed that archetypes
spring from a universal shared unconscious, & further
asserted that these archetypes have the same meaning for people
around the world.

Jung postulated 12 basic archetypes & it is
believed that brands, like people, evoke
one of these in our heads based on their actions. In our experience however, brands
often come through not as one, but as combination of 2-3 key archetypes.

Hamleys for me is clearly a
Magician-Explorer-Creator, a set of associations & images that makes it
distinctive from any of its competitors.

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So What?

While the knowledge of archetypes is interesting to
us as marketers, what is much more interesting & useful is to know that we
can use this knowledge to create compelling identities for our brands.

In today’s hypercompetitive markets where brands
need to be really distinctive to even get noticed, archetypes offer a wonderful
tool to imbue our brands with the X-factor they need to lead; brands with
personalities that our consumers would ‘love to meet’.

At the brandgym, we often use archetypes as a
projective thinking & creation tool. Whether we are creating new brands or refreshing old ones, we use archetypes
to design imaginative brand actions, which when implemented over time,
build brand myths.

How it works in

A typical session flow will be as follows:

  1. We introduce the concept of
    Archetypes in simple terms
  2. We then bring to life each
    archetype in an inspiring way, with brand examples
  3. As a team, we pick up the ones
    that seem to fit the evolving Vision spaces
  4. We finally apply to the brand to
    create ideas for action, benefits, values & personality

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For example, in a recent workshop for a state
government in India that was seeking investments in the state, we explored the
following actions inspired by Archetypes.

  1. As a Nurturer. Handhold investors
    with involvement & empathy. Super-fast clearances. Mitigate risk with steps
    including IP protection, good labour policies etc. Nurture businesses through creating
    modern infrastructure, timely service delivery, flexibility, attractive tax
    holidays, personalized B2B relationships & sensitivity in attitude.
  2. As an Explorer: Pioneer all hi-tech
    industries such as aerospace & nanotechnology. Promote tech tourism & eco-sensitive
    manufacturing. Leverage local/rural populations. Explore new investor markets
    in Far East/ East Asia. Connect with Indian Diaspora globally. Create tailor-made
    investment packages etc.
  3. As an Outlaw: Walk the talk.
    Create a sharp sectoral approach to business. Set up time guarantees & trackers
    for investors. Invest in rural markets. Support less advantaged groups. Promote
    alternate energy. Free education & food for all employees etc.

The Brand Personality traits that emerged (Boldly
Imaginative, Efficient but not Stressed, Makes Friends Easily, Takes Care of
Friends) were seen as refreshingly different from the bureaucratic stereotype
of a state government, and the resulting Brand Vision is in the process of


In the ‘Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance’, the author suggests that “bones & flesh are the
garments worn by the personality, not the other way around”. I believe that
brands are pretty much like that – the more distinctively we can imagine the
brand personality and surround it with the right ‘bones & flesh’, the more
we can set them free for growth. And archetypes are one great way to do that.