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TGIF: Better Brand-Building Through Cultural Archetypes?

On this past week’s episode of “Mad Men”, Ted Chaough, while trying to dream up campaign ideas for a margarine, riffs on the notion that various category brands can be viewed through the lens of the very popular, very silly 60s-era sitcom, “Gilligan’s Island”.

The notion is that the seven ship passengers stranded on a desert island after what was to have been (sing along if you know the lyrics) “a three-hour tour,” embody archetypes that endure across time, cultures and disciplines like PR, marketing, and advertising.

Ad/marketing wisdom holds that twelve archetypes are useful in brand-building, helping creatives define the personality and character of a brand. Here is a look at a few of the types through some of today’s cultural icons and hot products. See if it helps you write your next PR proposal!

The Hero or Explorer is someone who will have a major impact on the world or help people be all they can be – Rick Grimes on “The Walking Dead” is your basic archetypal hero. A brand like Nike, with its glorification of the athlete and the nobility of competition, is often thought of as a “hero” brand.

The Innocent or Jester is exemplified by that which offers a simple solution to a problem and is associated with goodness, morality, simplicity, nostalgia or childhood. Brands like Dove Soap and Ben & Jerry fit the mold, and Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory” is a terrific example of an Innocent.

The Sage is distinguished by traits like truth, intelligence, and analysis. It has wealth of knowledge and an urge to share it. This archetype screams Carrie (Claire Danes) on “Homeland”, perhaps minus the bipolar aspects. It evokes brands like PBS or possibly even Google.

The Magician makes things happen. It makes dreams come true but can also be a bit of a manipulator, given its passionate and charismatic ways. Magician archetypes include Walter White on “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men”’s own Don Draper. Magical brands might be anything from Apple or perhaps Disney.

The Lover archetype, is no surprise, physically and emotionally attractive, passionate and helps people have a good time – put Victoria’s Secret and Godiva Chocolate there and think Sophia Vergera of “Modern Family” as the TV embodiment.

Recognize any of your clients in the archetypes?

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