Turning Archetypes Into Insights With Values-Based Marketing


An archetype is a recurring symbol in art or literature that represents an idealized example of a person or thing. Archetypes can range from Biblical figures such as Jesus or Moses to entertainment characters such as Harry Potter or Darth Vader. Each of these characters takes part in a larger than life journey that teaches us a universal truth about human nature, and embodies a moral that serves as a blueprint for how we should live our lives. Psychologist Carl Jung theorized that archetypes are part of the collective unconscious, and proposed several representative archetypes such as the Shadow, the Wise Old Man, and the Mother.

Recently, Jungian archetypes have made their way into the world of marketing. As values-based marketing continues to gain traction in the business world, many forward-thinking brands are turning to archetypes as a means of targeting customers with stories that they hope will resonate and inspire them. By crafting messages that speak to the generalized archetype they have identified as their target audience, companies hope to reach people at a deeper psychological level, prompting them to share the brand story with others and become ambassadors for the brand.

But while generating an archetype for your audience is an interesting and worthwhile exercise, is this approach really enough to motivate the consumer at the level of their core values? Identifying an archetype may help stimulate ideas from the creative team as to how to personify a target audience, but most Jungian archetypes are simply too broad and undefined to generate the kinds of actionable insights required in today’s media landscape. More importantly, most researchers agree that these archetypes have very little predictive power, or even exist in a form that allows for rigorous scientific study.

To truly motivate today’s audiences at the level of their core values, companies need to leverage empirically grounded research to dive further into the specifics of your audience segments. Beyond just a general character sketch of the audience, a company needs answers to specific questions such as:

Where do they live?
What experiences do they prefer?
Where and when do they do their purchase research?
Who do they consult for purchase advice?
How influenced are they by other people?
What social media sites do they use for research?
What do they aspire to in life?

Note how some of these questions speak to larger, value-based concepts while others lead to more practical information about how they live their daily lives. Answering both these types of questions will lead to a more complete portrait of the target audience, allowing for specific, actionable insights. Fortunately, in this era of big data, there is no shortage of information available to help accomplish this task. Zenzi’s Social Values practice has developed six value-based personas based on well-established, scientifically validated psychological theory. Leveraging data from respected sources such as BeyondThePurchase.com, YourMorals.com, Ranker.com, as well as our own primary research, we have created ValueBase, the world’s largest collection of value-based insights into the lives of the modern consumer.

Let’s take a look at a few Jungian archetypes through the lens of a data driven approach. While most agree it is not practical to operationalize Jungian archetypes for testing, their general characteristics suggest some logical associations with Zenzi’s six values types, which have been rigorously tested. Let’s take a look at a few of these archetypes, their probable Zenzi correlates, and how a data-driven approach can add a deeper dimension to these personas. The archetypes go by different names, depending on which book or website you are reading, but the idea is the same:

The Explorer/Pioneer – This archetype is characterized by an adventurous spirit, independent personality, and a persistent desire to learn, grow and expand his/her horizons. Personal examples include Amelia Earhart and Steve Jobs. Brand examples include Levi’s and Patagonia.

Zenzi’s approach – Zenzi’s methodology clusters this archetype into a values segment called Freedom Seekers. It is apparent that stories targeted to Freedom Seekers should represent their forward-thinking mindset and innovative spirit, but did you know this segment does not like stories with happy endings, or that they mistrust advertising more than any other value type? This is important information to know when deciding on tone and placement of messages.

The Muse/Creator – An introspective, imaginitive archetype, which places an emphasis on embodying beauty and inspiring others to fulfill their potential for self-expression. Persons include Maya Angelou and Martha Stewart. Brands include Crayola and IKEA.

Zenzi’s approach – Zenzi would classify this persona as a Purpose Seeker. Of course, humanistic and inclusive messaging is a great way to reach Purpose Seekers, but more specifically, they tend to prefer stories that are emotionally driven and do not care as much for stories that are entertaining. Personality-wise, this archetype tends to be introverted, and therefore less active on social media.

The Ruler/Captain – This archetype is a born leader – ambitious, driven, tireless, but also eager to bring out the best in those around him/her. People include Alan Greenspan and Mitt Romney. Brands include Nike and Microsoft.

Zenzi’s approach – Zenzi would classify this archetype as either Tradition Seekers or Prestige Seekers, depending on the situation. These people are characterized by values such as tradition, duty, hierarchy and individual achievement. Of course, messaging emphasizing these values will resonate with them, but surprisingly, Zenzi’s data also suggests that they do not like stories that involve conflict, but do prefer stories where people care for each other. Counterintuitive insights such as this can be quite useful when designing a marketing strategy.

Insights such as these are crucial for taking archetypes to the next level, and pushing past surface stereotypes such as creating adventurous sounding taglines for Pioneers, or patriotic slogans for Rulers. Zenzi’s ValueBase contains thousands of insights like this, that allow for precise micro-targeting of archetypal personas in order to reach them where they are, with the right message, delivered in the most effective manner.

Zenzi’s Social Values practice combines marketing expertise, academic research, and data science to help businesses create meaningful, value-based connections with their customers and employees. We leverage ValueBase, the world’s most comprehensive database of values-driven insights, to help business align their brand’s core values with those of their customers. For more information on how Zenzi can help uncover the underlying motivations of your target audience, visit www.zenzi.com, or email us at info@socialvalues.com.

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