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Archetypes, Personas and Values Marketing: How To Know More About Your Customers

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Many brands spend significant time and money developing customer personas or archetypes to gain more understanding of their customers. But what exactly are personas and archetypes? Do you need to use them all? And which offer the best insights to effectively communicate with customers?

The most basic and widely adopted method of understanding customers is through use of personas. Psychologist Carl Jung, the creator of personas, described them as “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers”. Personas are narratives that use insights and market research—job title, age, sex, demographics, goals, challenges, ‘what keeps customers up at night’—to paint a fictional picture of the types of people companies are trying to target. Hubspot suggests giving personas memorable names like “Knowing Nancy” and “Sad Sam” to make them more relatable.

Many larger brands also look at archetypes. The 12 archetypes, also the product of Jung, are collectively inherited unconscious ideas and thoughts we all share—the mother, the child, the trickster. These concepts transcend time, place and geography. Advertisers and marketers try to pick the one that best matches their consumers to tell a story that resonates with them. The aim is to identify top consumers’ archetype to connect on a deeper psychological level, prompting consumers to share the story with others and become ambassadors for the brand. Using archetypes and stories leverages the fact that we are ‘feeling’ beings: humans make 80% of decisions before being rationally aware of them according to neuromarketing expert Roger Dooley, and we’re 22X more likely to remember a story than a fact alone.

But, while archetypes may be useful as a creative exercise, this analysis can be costly to obtain and limiting, as the character types for defining specific customers are not based on data and do not offer actionable information. Archetype development is more of an intellectual exercise than a practical one.

Professor of Psychology, Dr. Rosalyn M. King states, “Because [Jung’s] concepts were based on empirical data (broadly) one could conclude that he operated as a scientist. However, his theory falls short of rigorous standards of compatibility, predictive power and simplicity.”

In addition, neither personas nor archetypes offer data-sourced insights that address the specific inner needs of customers. Marketers often go with hunches about their audiences—what they think they want. This static information is often collected in a brand guide or Word Doc, where it is seldom consulted and ends up collecting dust.

With so much consumer data now available, a better approach is to leverage big data and science. This is where values marketing comes in. Values marketing offers specific, predictive insights to help marketers better understand and segment top consumers to create more effective communications programs.

Backed by decades of proven psychological research from renowned psychologist Shalom Schwartz, values are the one constant about human beings that rarely, if ever, changes. Values are the forces that motivate us. The way we prioritize them speaks to the heart of our identity: where we work, what we buy, what we say. We leave traces of them in every thing we do—on social media, in online reviews, in comments. This data can be mined and harnessed to gain meaningful insights to help companies best target specific customer segments.

Values-based segmentation gives marketers insight into the decisions customers make, including:
• How to inspire your most active customers
• Which marketing messages will be most effective

• Whose opinion top customers trust most

• What trigger points will get them to buy 

• What types of content they prefer

• What will encourage them to refer others 


When it comes to personas, archetypes and values marketing, many brands use a combination. It is not necessary to have one before developing the others, and often values marketing can be used to validate or disprove theories and guesses used in the development of personas and archetypes. To illustrate, let’s take look at a simple version of each with the hypothetical example of an adventure-based athletic apparel brand targeting women.

Persona – Adventurous Alice is a woman, age 21 – 40, with a sense of adventure and a desire to try new things. She likes the thrill of the outdoors and challenging herself. She leads a busy day at work (and sometimes also as a mother) and enjoys kayaking, hiking and exercising in nature as a way to focus on her self and let off steam. Her biggest challenges are making sure she has enough time to do the things she loves and finding ways to connect with nature and others. She is looking for gear that is comfortable and will support her in her physical endeavors.

Jungian Archetype – The Jungian archetype that is most likely aligned with Adventure Alice is the Explorer/Pioneer. The Explorer/Pioneer is characterized by an adventurous spirit, independent personality, and a persistent desire to learn, grow and expand her horizons. Real-world examples include Amelia Earhart and Steve Jobs. Examples of brands that target and represent this archetype are Levi’s and Patagonia.

Values Marketing – Zenzi’s values marketing research draws on six primary value types that each have distinct characteristics and communications preferences. Values marketing looks at the true motivators of Adventurous Alice and her exploring peers, with rigorous testing through social media behavior, past-purchase data, geographic location, online reviews, and direct consumer surveys.
In Zenzi’s model, Adventurous Alice is a Freedom Seeker. Based on data analysis, we know stories targeted to Freedom Seekers should represent their forward-thinking mindset and innovative spirit. Alice and her peers do not like stories with happy endings, which they will see as too aspirational and unlikely. Rather, they like stories about people who are most like them and have a realistic storyline. They are especially concerned with quality and practicality and they do a lot of self-guided research before buying. Reviews and testimonials are particularly important, as are the opinions of subject matter experts. Freedom seekers mistrust advertising more than any other value type. For more on Freedom Seekers, click here.

As you can see, insights into the online and offline behavior of Freedom Seekers offers an added layer of actionable research about a brand’s key customers, providing a roadmap for more effective marketing content and campaigns.

Personas, archetypes, call them what you will, if assumptions about audiences are not based on data and real-world insights, they often remain locked in a folder. Marketers need to look beyond basic customer sketches and generalizations to more deeply understand the values of their customers, and how those values impact purchase decisions.

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