How to Put Archetypes to Work in Your Business

Archetypes are like software programs that come preinstalled in your mind.  They transcend culture and time.
Business archetypes tap into customers’ psyches.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung considered archetypes the fundamental units of the human mind.

Archetypes are like software programs that come preinstalled on your computer (mind). You may not know they exist, but they are always either running in the background or ready to run after a single click.

Archetypes are images of a collective nature. They are universal symbols. Archetypes are personified in the characters and roles of religions, myths, fairy tales, and modern storytelling in the form of films and video games. Every character in a story represents an archetype.

How Archetypes Work

Jung described archetypes as the forms which our instincts take.1 That is, archetypes trigger set patterns of behavior.

No matter what image of the Hero archetype you hold in mind, for example, certain patterns of behavior and characteristics come alive, like bravery, valor, persistence, and action.

It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, the Hero archetype is the same. Archetypes transcend culture and time.

Connect with Your Customer’s Emotional Life

Archetypes, Jung wrote, “are pieces of life itself—images that are integrally connected to the living individual by the bridge of the emotions.”2

Emotion is what brings archetypes to life. An image is dead if it doesn’t evoke true feelings. Without emotion, an archetypal image cannot speak to us.

Although modern culture focuses mainly on the external world of material things, humans also have an inner world. This inner world is the home of our fantasies, imagination, and emotional life.

It is from our inner world that we find personal meaning, value, and life’s richness.

Our outer worlds and our inner worlds are not mutually exclusive. Perhaps you know someone who is financially prosperous (outer) but emotionally poor (inner). You probably also know people who have very little financially, but seem to live rich, joyful lives.

One of the reasons we love watching movies is that they bring certain archetypes to life in our minds. We feel what the characters feel. For the duration of the movie, the archetypes in our psyche get to live out an adventure.

When businesses use archetypes effectively in marketing, these archetypes evoke powerful emotions and related images in the minds of their customers. This effort results in customers instinctively gravitating to these businesses.

Great Brands Capitalize on Archetypes

The first step to using archetypes in your marketing efforts is to identify the archetypes hidden within your business.

This is both an art and a science. There are thousands of archetypes and isolating the most relevant ones is no simple task.

Apple plays to the Creator archetype, associating itself with free-thinking, creativity, self-expression, originality, knowledge, and nonconformity.

Nike plays to the Warrior archetype, associating itself with the goddess of victory, strength, endurance, courage, fearlessness, conviction, and dominance.

The second step is to create associations between your archetypes and your brand in the minds of your customers. This requires creativity and consistency as well as a thoughtful, disciplined approach to marketing and advertising.

Is it worth the effort?

There’s no single better way for big businesses to position themselves in the hearts and mind of their customers.

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Why Customers Get Brand Tattoos

Brand tattoos help customers bond with others in the same social group who share special interests and common values.

What drives a person to get a brand tattoo?

Think about what the term “branding” really means and you’ll have a better appreciation for the importance of the psychology behind brand tattoos.

The tattoo is a powerful symbolic image. Symbolic images activate patterns buried in our unconscious. These unconscious images are what Carl Jung referred to as archetypes.

Archetypes, in Jung’s words, “are simply the forms which the instincts assume.”1

Archetypes serve as the foundation for the way the psyche interacts with the world. We associate specific symbolic images with specific feelings, values, and beliefs. We are not generally aware of these associations; they are below our conscious awareness.

Brand Tattoos Fulfill Social Needs

Symbols are tied to our instincts, which feed our human needs. We all have biological needs as well as social needs. Brand tattoo serve our social needs.

How? The mark or image of a brand represents a specific set of ideals, aspirations, beliefs, values, and worldviews. We all have a need for love and belonging. Brand tattoos are badges that symbolize membership into a social group. They makes us feel like we belong.

Brand tattoos help customers bond with others in the same social group who share special interests and common values. Brand tattoos send a message that they belong to a unique, personally meaningful community. You only “get the message” if you’re part of that group.

Brand Tattoos Represent Meaningful Associations

Victor Frankl attributed the success of his bestseller Man’s Search for Meaning to the title of the book. To him, millions of people bought the book because of their own lack of meaning in their lives. And, the need to fill the meaning deficit has only grown through the present day.

Some people have discovered their meaning in the values they project onto brands like Apple, Harley-Davidson, Nintendo, Nike, and Coca-Cola.

The brand tattoo is permanent badge with special meaning. It creates a powerful recall cue for the memories, experiences, emotions, and other positive associations they have with the brand. A single image, as represented by the tattoo, can encapsulate a complex matrix of meaning.

Brand Tattoos Symbolize Ideals

Beyond the social needs of humans, brand tattoos are reminders of the customer’s ideal life.

Brands can become associated with specific ideals, as Apple has become inextricably linked to creativity, beauty, and self-expression. Customers see the brand’s mark as both a reminder of and identification with these ideals, allowing them to draw strength from the image.

For customers to identify with your brand, your brand has to constantly and consistently be associated with a particular archetype. Then, if that image resonates strong enough in your customer’s psyche, they just might want to brand their skin with your image.

Marrying Customers to Your Business

Customers instinctively look for meaning. They naturally look for something to rally around. They crave an emotional payoff from their interaction with the brands they love. Brand tattoos create a permanent physical connection between the customer and the brand.

In a world where most businesses focus exclusively on growth and sales, the opportunity for businesses to serve customers on a deeper level remains open and waiting.

The doorway to the customer’s unconscious mind is open to those brave enough to venture inward. The results can be magical, with extreme loyalty—and growth and sales—following suit. follow suit.

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How Do You Serve Your Best Customers?

What problem are you helping your best customers solve? What need are you helping them fill?

No matter how the technological and commercial landscape may change, your goal remains the same: to create customers.

More specifically, your goal is to build relationships with customers that translate to repeat business and positive word of mouth.

This challenging feat is, in large part, accomplished through branding: using a set of practices to get customers to associate specific emotions and images with a company.

When a group of customers associates desired emotions and images to a brand, that brand has “equity” it can leverage in order to grow.

Southwest Airlines, for example, offers warm, friendly service to its passengers in an industry notorious for subpar customer experience.

Their brand has become the “heart of the sky,” symbolized by a heart on the belly of its airplanes.

The Strategy: Focus On Your Best Customers

The secret ingredient to profitability and creating a loyalty-driven enterprise is what we call Brand Lovers: the customers who love you the most.

Brand Lovers emotionally connect with what you do and want to celebrate who you are. Their connection with your brand is so strong that they often don’t consider doing business with anyone else, and if they do: they always consider you first.

Apple’s Brand Lovers, for example, don’t consider purchasing a PC. To them, there is no alternative to Mac.

Your Brand Lovers choose you more often than your competitors. For many companies, the best customers drive most of the business’s profitability. Yet, these businesses often know very little about these customers.

Identify Your Brand Lovers

How do you find your best customers?

Actually, they often find you. They might hang out in your stores, repeatedly comment on your social media, send you e-mails, and call from time to time to tell you how great you’re doing.

Some customers might even blog about your products or services, or create videos and post them on YouTube. These special customers might mention you on their social networks.

On the financial side, if you maintain a customer database, you can sift through and determine who purchases from you with the greatest frequency and for the longest time span.

Know Your Brand Lovers

Your goal is to form a stronger relationship with your best customers. To accomplish this, start by getting to know them better.

Talk to them. Find out why they keep doing business with you. Don’t be afraid to ask. And, listen carefully.

Conducting online surveys can be helpful, but finding ways to directly talk to your customers provides deeper insights than any survey can. Sam Walton would often tell his executives: “If you don’t know what to do, go ask the customer. If it’s not happening in the store, it is not important.”

Look for the intangible clues that make you unique in your customers’ eyes. Uncover the emotional effect you have on them.

General market research doesn’t uncover the true drivers of choice for your best customers. These drivers are always below the surface in the subconscious realms.  

Serve Them Better Than Anyone Else

There are always ways to grow your business by embracing your best customers.

Once you understand why your best customers love doing business with you, you will be better prepared to serve them. The answers don’t have to be complex.

How can you show them that you genuinely care about them?

For World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), offering free meatball subs before their shows increased the love among early participants.

What problem are you helping your best customers solve? What need are you helping them fill?

Skaters were ostracized by most businesses, but Vans listened to its customers and developed products aligned with the skater lifestyle.

What are meaningful ways to celebrate their loyalty?

Are you grateful for your best customers? Do they know it? What are some ways to acknowledge your appreciation for their business?

You don’t necessarily have to give them a gift; sometimes a simple “thank you” will work wonders.

As a leader of your enterprise, your role is to create the future today. This requires you to know what your customers will want tomorrow. The only way to anticipate the future needs of your customers is to understand who they are. Then, you can create the future together.

Top 5 Cult Branding Blogs of 2020

Cult Branding's Top Loyalty and Crisis Blogs of the Year

In a year that’s been filled with a lot of stress, anxiety, and uncertainty, we’re especially thankful for your continued readership during this challenging year.

Taking into consideration your opens, shares, and clicks, below are our five most popular blogs of 2020.

We wish you and your family a happy, healthy, and fantastic New Year.

BJ, Salim, and Aaron

5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change)

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw most crisis articles focus on the importance of resilience. But, that’s only one piece of what’s required to overcome the challenges that come with a crisis.

“5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change)” combines the latest in both research and practical experience in managing a crisis. It is a comprehensive guide to understanding the dynamics of a crisis and what you can do to pivot with purpose and overcome the challenging conditions that come with a crisis.

What to Do When You’re Worn Out

Something we consistently heard from both readers and clients was how difficult it was to not feel burnt out this year.

This blog presents four effective strategies for combating burnout.

How to Build Customer Loyalty in The Age of Skeptics

In January, we published this blog on how to turn increasingly skeptical consumers into loyal customers by building trusting relationships. Little did we know how relevant it would be for this year.

The pandemic has highlighted to more businesses how critical it is to maintain a loyal customer base as they have been the difference between success and closure for many businesses.

Beyond Loyalty Programs: 5 Ways to Create Loyal Customers

Loyalty programs are par for the course in many businesses today. Yet, most of them look the same.

This blog contains 5 ways businesses can create loyalty by doing what their customers really value in a way that is unique to the business.

How to Get Customers to Choose You Instead of Your Competitors

Businesses always battle for customers from their competitors. But, this year the value of those individual purchases to the businesses has increased.

In this blog, we explore how focusing on customer needs can make you an unstoppable force against your competition.

7 Questions Leaders of Cult Brands Constantly Ask

Are you on the pulse of your customers? Are you able to take their perspective?

The status of your business today is a direct consequence of the questions company leaders have been asking for the last several years.

Questions direct the future. Better quality questions produce better quality results.

Knowing what questions to ask, and when, is a skill. The more you practice this skill, the more proficient you become.

Leaders of Cult Brands ask different questions than most other business executives. These questions move their enterprise closer to their customers—toward trust, loyalty, differentiation, and the promise of a better tomorrow.

Here are seven questions customer-focused leaders regularly ask:

1) Why do our customers buy from us instead of our competitors?

Harley-Davidson couldn’t help notice that their customers enjoyed coming together to go for rides; this was the genesis of the Harley Owners Group. Lots of people love to ride motorcycles, but HOG members feel like they’re part of a special community (with over one million members). It’s what makes Harley different.

In an industry notorious for focusing on the less redeeming qualities in human nature, Oprah made her talk show a celebration of hope, empowerment, and self-improvement. It’s what made Oprah different.

It’s vital that you clearly understand how your brand differentiates itself from your competitors in a way that’s meaningful to your customers. Only then can you reinforce that differentiation in ways that better serve your customers.

2) How can we break the rules that run our category?

Who would want to buy eyeglass frames online when you need to try on many glasses to find one that fits? Warby Parker solved this problem by offering free shipping and allowing customers to order multiple frames before deciding which ones they want to keep without putting any money down.

Dollar Shave Club took the stale razor-blade category and made it fun and quirky. Their monthly subscription model is convenient and cheaper for customers while building repeat business.

Every market category has rules—standards of how the business operates. List all the rules that run your category and continually look for ways to disrupt the status quo.

3) How can our business help fulfill our customers’ passions and dreams?

IKEA customers are passionate about their home space. IKEA’s affordable furniture and accessories help its customers create aesthetically appealing spaces on a tight budget.

MINI customers are passionate about their vehicles. They want their cars to be an expression of their individuality. MINI helps them do that with their You-ification option that offers unlimited customization to the car’s design.

To answer this question, you first need to uncover the passions and dreams of your customers. What drives them? What tensions are they seeking to resolve? Who do they aspire to become? Then, determine how your business can best help them find fulfillment.

4) What are our customers telling us?

Who wants to pay an additional fee for checking in luggage for a flight you’ve already paid for? Southwest Airlines knew their customers expect more from them. While other airlines are charging up to $120 for passenger luggage, Southwest established their Bags Fly Free policy.

Amazon.com’s customers told them they didn’t want to wait to receive their packages or pay for shipping every time they ordered something. Amazon created their Prime program that now has over 112 million members in the US who enjoy free two-day shipping, free movies, and other perks for a moderate annual fee.

Are you on the pulse of your customers? Are you able to take their perspective? Do you know their tensions and what they want? Do you know where you’re excelling and falling short?

5) What else can we do to build a sense of community around our brand?

Hundreds of IKEA customers make family road trips and spend the weekend camping out in front of a new IKEA store. IKEA uses their grand openings to build a community for their customers with music, street performers, and BBQs.

Jimmy Buffet actively supports Parrothead clubs that champion his island-vibes and carefree living message.

What opportunities are you providing for your customers to connect with each other? Milestone events, such as store openings, the launch of a new product line, or holidays can serve as the focus for community building.

6) Who is our business especially for?

The Ritz-Carlton is a hotel chain for ladies and gentlemen served by ladies and gentlemen.

Vans shoes are especially for the skateboarding and snowboarding community.

Your business will attract many types of customers, but only a minority are tailored made for who you are and what you do. We call these special few Brand Lovers. If you know who they are and what drives them, you can create evangelists that will help you grow your business.

7) How is our business helping our customers experience freedom?

Linux, Vans, Google, Amazon.com, IKEA, Star Trek, Harley-Davidson, Apple, Oprah, and MINI all help their customers feel freer. It is one of the defining characteristics of Cult Brands.

Freedom is a powerful human need. As free as your customers may be, there are areas where they feel repressed. Who would they be if they were free to be their best selves? How can you help your customers move past the shackles and constraints placed on them by society and tradition?

The Seven Rules of Cult Brands

These seven questions mirror the Seven Golden Rules of Cult Brands. Asking these questions often and committing to finding better quality answers will put you on the fast track to fostering undying customer loyalty.

The Key to Unlocking the Hearts and Minds of Your Customers

Activating an archetype is like opening an app on your smartphone. Tap it and the archetype starts running.

Our culture, and every modern culture since the Age of Enlightenment, praises reason above all else.

Reason and logic became the salvation of mankind and ushered in the industrial, technological, and information ages.

When humans praise one thing, they have a tendency of doing so at the expense of something else.

In this case, the rise of reason brought a bias against its supposed opposite: emotion.

The Emotional Life of Your Customer

In praising reason, we forgot that human beings are, first and foremost, emotional creatures.

Our reasoning strategies evolved within a vast network of emotions and feelings.

This cultural bias towards reason can keep us from understanding our customers (as well as our employees and ourselves). It gives us a false picture of who we’re trying to serve, for our customers are predominantly emotional, not rational, beings.

In the final analysis, we’re all more alike than we are different. Our emotional lives are what bind humanity together.

Tools for Exploring Your Customer’s Psyche

Unconscious processes operate millions of times faster than does our conscious mind. As much as 95% of our brain processes that result in decisions, behavior, and the motivations behind that behavior, are not conscious.

To get to better know ourselves and to get on pulse of what truly drives our customers to make decisions, we need to go below the surface. We need to somehow access and uncover the motivations in the subconscious and the unconscious mind.

Archetypes, images, symbols, and stories are gateways into these deeper realms.

Used consciously and correctly, this group of tools can provide penetrating insights into our customers’ lives that transcend even the most technologically-advanced research-gathering methods.

Archetypes are the Roots of the Soul

Psychiatrist Carl Jung observed that the psyche consists mainly of images. Many of these images are universal, found throughout the earth in our myths, dreams, and fairy tales. He called these universal mental images archetypes.

Archetypes are deep patterns embedded within each psyche.

We don’t create these archaic images or the patterns of behavior they embody. They come pre-installed in our operating systems; we inherit these images within our brain structure. They lay dormant within us until activated.

Activating an archetype is like opening an app on your smartphone. Tap it and the archetype starts running.

Symbols are the Building Blocks of Thought

Symbols are triggers of archetypal images. A symbol is a visual image that represents an idea. Water, for example, symbolizes the feminine life-force and the unconscious. The sun symbolizes the masculine life-force that surrounds us as well as our conscious mind.

Jung saw symbols as the building blocks of thought itself. Symbols, then, are shortcuts to reaching deeper levels of your customer’s psyche.

Every image—everything you can see with your eyes and in your mind’s eye—has symbolic counterparts.

When you see a ladder, your conscious mind sees a tool for climbing to higher places. Symbolically, the image of a ladder serves as a reminder of a psychological climb toward self-awareness or a spiritual climb to a higher truth.

A triangle represents a hierarchy.  The eagle is a dominant bird of prey. Both the triangle and the eagle are age-old symbols of power.

Symbols can come in the form of visual images like in a logo or product packaging. But they can also come in the form of metaphorical language.

Symbols can be used as a signal to your customer of what your brand represents.

Stories Bring Archetypal Patterns to Life

Story is perhaps the most powerful way to express archetypal patterns. Every story has a cast of characters that represents expressions of various archetypes.

The hero, the villain, the friend, the wise old man/woman, the trickster all represent characters within each of us. They each possess certain behavioral patterns, values, and perspectives that carry their own truth.

Each of us is faced with a series of challenges in life designed to help us grow. The hero’s journey, for example, represents the journey to mature adulthood—the path to personal transformation.

When we listen to a story, we enter the story. When we watch a movie, neurons fire in our brain as if the story is happening to us. Stories, then, awaken and speak to the archetypes within us.

Brands that tap into the power of story can connect and influence their customers in ways their competitors can only dream of.

Emotions Give Images Life

A symbolic image alone doesn’t evoke any meaning in your customer. An image alone is lifeless.

Emotion is what gives the image life. When an image combines with emotion, the archetypal force is activated within your customer’s psyche.

It is this living archetype that defines a brand. It’s what drives a customer’s choice of which brand to associate with.

And so it is the emotional life of your customers you must turn to if you are committed to understanding them so that you can serve them better than anyone else.

Four Strategies for Increasing Happiness in the Workplace (and Within Yourself )

Fostering a happy workplace starts by cultivating optimism within yourself.

Do you notice that setbacks tend to occupy your mind more than victories?

Do you sometimes struggle to stay positive about your business?

Employees expect their leaders to be enthusiastic, energetic, and positive about the future. But on a day-to-day basis, maintaining a positive outlook and inspiring others can be challenging.

Even if everything in your business is going smoothly, a problematic issue in your personal life—with your spouse, child, friend, or relative—can throw you off your game.

Leaders must inspire their people amidst professional and personal challenges. Research-based methods for counteracting negativity and fostering optimism give leaders the resources to inspire themselves and uplift others.

How can you inspire others if you don’t feel inspired?

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Core Values, Passion, and Happiness

Happiness is really just about four things: perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness, and vision/meaning. —Tony Hsieh

This reminds me of a (possibly apocryphal) story I heard about a shoe company back in the 1800s that sent a couple of their employees to a distant land for a month to scout the region and determine the market opportunity there. One of the employees came back and said, “Nobody there wears shoes! There’s no opportunity there!” The other employee came back a week later and said, “Nobody there wears shoes! There’s so much opportunity there!”Tony Hsieh1

Like many people in the business world, I was saddened to hear of the passing of Tony Hsieh last week. Not only did I have a lot of respect for Tony, but I was fortunate to call him a friend.

If you ever met Tony, you’d know he was definitely like the second employee in the story he recounted. Tony saw potential everywhere, not just in businesses, but also in people. Whether it was empowering Zappos employees to pursue their passion projects or listening to an artist friend around a campfire in the yard near his airstream, Tony saw possibility where others would just see half-baked ideas. 

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Eight Steps to Build Brand Loyalty

Relentlessly serve your best customers better than anyone else.
To build brand loyalty, serve your best customers better than your competitors do.

Here are eight steps you can take to begin building brand loyalty.

Step 1: Focus on your best customers

Build your business around your best customers—what we call Brand Lovers—instead of trying to aimlessly drive sales. Over time, your return on marketing and innovation efforts will rise.

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Putting the Cult Back into Culture

supportive cultures facilitate personal freedom and foster positive growth.

If someone told you your company is a cult, how would you take it?

Instead of getting offended, you may want to feel a sense of pride. It all depends on how you look at cults and the role they play in creating your corporate culture.

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