How would you feel driving a Harley Davidson? You, on the streets, on fire on this brutal machine. In the world of motorcycles, a Harley driver is a rather proud one. An outlaw, one who provokes the fancy sports models for more than a century. Harley Davidson represents a unique feeling.
Nivea gives you an unique feeling too, although in a different way. Nivea takes care of you. Feels soft and gentle.
When entering a supermarkt, your rational side becomes active, calculating and making logical choices. However, while scanning the shelves, there's also an emotional connection with brands. You need this soft and gentle Nivea cream to take care of your aging skin, right?
This combination of rationale and gut feeling enables you to create order in the decision chaos called life. The human brain processes brands in a similar way it values people. Brands - and the people behind it - unconsciously represent a set of identities and intentions. It is all about your relationship with these identities and intentions.
So as a team you need to be very clear about the brand identity and the archetype you create for your company, to fit your ultimate customer. Research has shown that companies that varied their archetype over time were less profitable than those that stuck with one particular archetype.
Treating archetypes as the fad of the month, applying archetypes only when it suits and ignoring them the rest of the time, harms your brand.
Consistent use of the brand archetype makes "the gut feeling of your brand" strong and recognizable. Additionaly, using an archetype boosts strategic awareness within your team too.
Employees join the brand identity
Once an employee knows "what you stand for", it becomes easier to act and respond this way to the outer world, strengthing the brand identity with every single move. As for Nivea, one knows to take gentle care of people. A customer service desk is able to set the right tone and support style, which will be different compared to the call center of Harley Davidson.
Sharing the same company archetype as a team provides a shared goal. By using an archetype, you can make a goal very vivid and visual for your team. Archetypes tell a story, are build as a character and represent a personality people can align with. This motivates and inspires.
So.. how to build such a archetype in your company?
The word archetype derives from the ancient Greek archetypon, in which arche - beginning, origin - and typon - pattern, model, type - are combined. This pure form of identity is used by many storytellers and script writers to engage the audience.
The Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung took the archetype concept of Plato and defined 4 major archetypes:
Focused on the outer world, persona is derived from the Latin word for mask. It acts to shield the ego from negative images. The persona archetype allows people to adapt to their outer world.
However, if one identifies to closely with the persona, people loses their true self. This self represents the ongoing process of individuation, in which one develops a cohesive self, both for the conscious (outer) and unconscious (inner) world.
This individuation is not always easy, since we all have some shadows. Shadows contain all of the things that are not acceptable within society and one's own moral and values. Think of envy, greed, hate, and agression.
The animus & anima
In the end, we hope to find our true self, which is build into the animus and anima. As one has some feminine and masculine aspects, both animus and anima are applicable to an individual.
As you can see, a person you does not consist out of one archetype. We're human: we evolve. That's why Jung believed there's no limit to archetypes that exist.
At any certain point in your life, there's an aspect that takes the lead. And this is exactly the aspect you want to grab when engaging a customer or a team member.
To do so, we need a compact wheel of archetypes to start with. Underneath you can find 12 archetypes, identified along Carl Jung's theory. They represent a large chunk of the present society and the interests of your customer.
So let's start to:
Identify the current need of your customer
Does one crave freedom? Or does one long for innovation? And is this what you actually provide with your products and/or services?
Tell the story
Compose a story about the archetype you have selected. You can fill the gaps:
"We are The _____________. We aim to provide ____________________ and do so by our [products/services]. We value _____________________ very highly and appreciate _____________. We tend to avoid __________________________ and get very enthusiastic about __________________________________________. "
Executive team meeting
As an executive team, it is a great start for a dialogue about the essence of your gathering in this company. Give everyone a copy of the archetype overview, and let people mark where they think you stand as a company. Let everyone tell their insights, and compose a shared archetype.
Focus on consistency
You can expand this meeting with the question: How will our archetype evolve the coming 5 years? What's the difference between these two archetypes? If there's any, get there quickly and start being 100% consistent in your message.
Now you've defined what to tell your team - and your customers - in a vivid story. Where hopefully, they feel connected from the self, on the verge of conscious and unconscious.
Hillman, J. Archetypal psychology a brief account. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications; 1985.
Jung, CJ. Four Archetypes. New York: Routledge; 2014.
Watts, J, Cockcroft, K, & Duncan, N. Developmental Psychology. Cape Town: UCT Press; 2009.