After selecting FUEL’s latest book pick, The Hero and The Outlaw , our Senior Copywriter Brittany makes a case for the true but dramatic connection between brand meaning and the meaning of life. Too much? Well, at the very least how branding = brand meaning, and brand meaning is the driving force behind brand success. Plus, what do star signs and “adjective soup” got to do with it? We’ll let her explain.
The Hero and The Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes
Co-written by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson
“A brand’s meaning―how it resonates in the public heart and mind―is a company’s most valuable competitive advantage. And still, few companies really know how brand meaning works, how to manage it, and how to use brand meaning strategically. This groundbreaking book provides the illusive and compelling answer. Using studies drawn from the experiences of Nike, Marlboro, Ivory and other powerhouse brands, the authors show that the most successful brands are those that most effectively correspond to fundamental patterns in the unconscious mind known as archetypes .”
I believe there are really only two types of people in the world: those who believe in star signs, and those who brutally judge those who believe in star signs. (Don’t @ me.) And while I won’t say which camp I belong to (or that I’m ruled by an Aries Sun, Taurus Moon, and Aquarius Rising), I will say, if you’re caught up on the legitimacy of the celestial world’s influence on us, you’re completely missing the point. It’s not about the stars or the planets—it’s about personas.
A Leo, a Capricorn, an Aries, or a Scorpio is not so different from a Hero, a Sage, a Lover, or an Outlaw. Brand identity to a company is what the persona is to you and me. So the real question is: can you believe that each of us is playing a particular role on the world’s stage, unique to a group and yet entirely complementary to all the others? If that makes sense, then you’ll love mining the depths of universal archetypes and uncovering the meaning and value they provide. And maaaybe stop judging the zodiac?
The Key Takeaway: Define and Conquer
Something The Hero and The Outlaw makes clear from the very beginning is that the meaning of a brand is its most valuable and irreplaceable asset; valuable because the feelings it conjures in consumers directly correlate to their loyalty and investment in that brand. And whether consumers are conscious of it or not, the brands they consider to be “icons” reflect their most loved archetypes, those they’ve encountered in books, famous films, pop culture, and even daily life since childhood. The Hero. The Lover. The Explorer. The―we all know ours.
Since we know that brands, like archetypes, are really just mirrors of ourselves and our experiences (literal or imagined), we can go a bit deeper into how ―how they have motivations, virtues, vices, verbal and visual languages, and limitless potential, too. How they have souls even. But as this book poses, navigating and managing what all of that means for a brand’s bottom line isn’t as intuitive. There has to be a proven system for identifying what particular archetype a brand is and how that can create a well of value. So first…
I’d say 80% of the content in The Hero and The Outlaw is focused on helping you identify the most fitting and leverageable archetype for your company. It isn’t a random approach where everyone simply tosses in a string of adjectives they think define their brand persona, although that might help you get started. Mark and Pearson warn against this “adjective soup” approach because it could actually cause more chaos and confusion, not create a fixed identity or direction. Or even tempt you to pull from more than one archetype and split the personality. Instead, you need a North Star.
Meet the Innocent, the Explorer, the Sage, the Hero, the Outlaw, the Magician, the Regular Guy/Gal, the Lover, the Jester, the Caregiver, the Creator, and the Ruler. Probe their psyches and values and either instantly connect, or move on until you do. Throughout this process, you might be surprised at how all of this―creating, communicating, and growing brands―is pure psychology. And the potential for brand insights and consumer insights is incredible.
Exactly that. Once you know who you are and in some way where you’re going, you have everything you need to go forth and begin conquering your market.
According to Mark and Pearson, archetypes provide the missing link between customer motivation and product sales. And besides providing the tools and strategies to harness the power of your brand’s archetype, they’ll also help align corporate strategy to sustain competitive advantage. In other words, they can help you shake things up a bit. For example, if you’re in a highly competitive category like coffee, which has been traditionally known as the Caretaker’s territory, what are your options to be competitive in such a saturated space, where every other brand is not only fulfilling the same need but also speaking in the same voice? If the quality is already cut throat and the sourcing curated/sustainable/personal, what’s left if not just the advertising? So imagine carving a new identity, leaving the Caretaker behind and creating a coffee maker that’s… the Outlaw? How would that change the market? Most importantly, how could that curb the demand and give you an advantage?
We can actually look to Starbucks for inspiration. Starbucks never marketed itself as The Caretaker but instead the Explorer. The Explorer’s motto is “Don’t fence me in.” Think of brands like Levi’s and Patagonia or works of literature like The Odyssey , The Great Gatsby , The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The Explorer’s world revolves around the journey because every journey leads to experiences rich in discovery―of oneself, others, the world, purpose, etc. And what makes products and services Explorer products and services is the ability to assist that journey, literally and figuratively. They value and enable individuality and freedom. Can you see how that so easily applies to the Starbucks product and environment?
That’s exactly why defining your archetype is the first step to conquering your marketing and even category. And while we’re still surface-level at the moment, The Hero and The Outlaw is a well of invaluable insights and information. I highly, highly recommend you immerse yourself. And then, maybe, go read your horoscope.