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.