In the last decades the brand has evolved to a valuable marketing construct. Once started as a sender to identity products of a manufacturer, nowadays we can conclude that the brand has developed into a concept with an own identity. The brand, as a sublimation of the value proposition of an organisation, has become like a person with its own value set, vision, physical characteristics and behaviour. Based on this identity the brand is able to create strong relationships. Not only with consumers but also with, for example employees, citizens, and suppliers. These relations arise because the brand is able to fulfil the ambitions and aspirations of its stakeholders in a meaningful way. And the better the brand is able, the higher the chance for a long-term relationship, which results in higher preference, loyalty and willingness to invest.
The possession of a strong identity is an important asset for a brand and will become increasingly important in the future. However, it is remarkable that the need to have a strong identity and the development of it is ignored in almost every discussion on branding. Moreover, we notice that in practice a (relative large) number of brands change their identity in order to "reconnect" with the consumer. Often without success as the consumer does not recognize its brand anymore. Just because the brand has changed its identity! The consumer simply does not know what the brand stands for and as a consequence of this he has difficulties to trust the brand. And trust, as we all know, is the basis for every relationship.
It looks like that in many cases we have forgotten that a strong identity works, externally and internally, as a beacon in a context that changes continuously. It is the roots of the brand on which consumers and employees are willing to trust. It is the reason why brands with a strong identity, like Apple, Nike, IKEA and BMW, have a relatively large group of loyal consumers, employees and ambassadors. These are brand with a strong belief and a set of consistent values with which their consumers and employees feel connected and are willing to identity with. In other words, it is time to have a serious look at the way in which a strong and meaningful brand identity can be developed.
During our desk research on developing a strong (brand) identity we discovered the extensive work of the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and more specific his concept of the Archetypes as being very strong forms of identities. These archetypes can be seen as universal patterns, or templates, which exist in the unconscious of every person. And once recognized in a situation these archetypes will become active as they give meaning and depth to our lives. Every archetype possesses its own set of values, ambitions, intentions and behaviour and helps us to realize our (unconscious) ambitions and aspirations. Archetypes are therefore a powerful (if not the most powerful) driver behind our behaviour. For example, the caring archetype will become manifest in a woman that has just become a mother. She will have a powerful need (unconscious ambition) to take good care of the child. In other words, archetypes as an identity form are very valuable because they offer a structure in the life of people and function as a (hidden) guide for their behaviour.
Brand Prototyping Process®
When we translate this thought into building a brand we can conclude that it provides a solid basis for developing a strong brand identity. By using the concept of the archetypes brand will protect themselves from creating a fancy brand identity which is inconsistent and unclear. Using archetypes makes it possible to develop a meaningful relationship with the consumer because it fulfils an (unconscious) ambition and/or aspiration.
Based on the concept of archetypes HIGHvalue has developed the so-called Brand Prototyping Process®. This method makes it possible to create a strong brand identity based on an archetype and enables brands to stay relevant and vital. Below we shall explain the steps.
1. Determining the relevant archetype
Creating a meaningful relationship starts with understanding the (hidden) ambitions and aspirations in a category, because this determines the relationship between the consumer and the brand. For example, fun is a dominant and relevant aspiration in the ice cream category, but is less relevant in the financial services category, where control seems to be more relevant. In other words, the ambitions and aspirations in a category determine the possible archetypes. Thus not every archetype is relevant in every market! Inspired by the work of Pearson (1991) we can identify 12 archetypes, all with its own set of values, ambitions, intentions and behaviour.
2. Determining the desired Brand Protoype
In essence there are only 12 possible identity options available on which a brand identity can be developed. However, within these directions there is an enormous variety of sub identities possible. The next step for the brand is to translate the archetypal brand into a brand specific identity. The so-called Brand Prototype. For example, brands like Nivea, Starbucks and Hallmark are different in terms of look & feel and identity. In the same time they all possess the archetypal characteristics of the caregiver brand. In other words, Brand Prototyping offers the opportunity to create an own and unique brand identity within the generic and universal archetype.
3. Keeping the desired Brand Prototype vital
An identity is not static. The opposite is true! Strong identities are able to continuously adapt themselves to the actual context without losing their roots and heritage. This is visible with brands like IKEA, Nike and Apple, which, over a longer period are able to create a consistent brand image, while they understand actual trends and developments in their markets and fulfil contemporary ambitions and aspirations of their consumers. The third step in the Brand Prototyping Process® focuses on keeping the brand relevant and vital. By doing this one of the biggest challenges in contemporary branding will be realised, namely continuously change to the ambitions and aspirations of consumers and in the meantime staying the same. A good example of this is Nike. This hero brand is every time able to translate their winning concept in a relevant way. For many years their advertising was relatively aggressive; a commercial was shown where football superstars are playing a 3 on 3 game on a ship and the losing team was dropped off the ship. Nowadays their never grow up executions are more friendly, but still in line with their winning identity.
In the last years few attention has been paid to building a strong identity. The Brand Prototyping Process® provides a solid basis for developing a strong brand identity. This process starts from the archetypes and forces the brand to choose a universal identity. This identity, the so-called Blue Print, is the starting point to keep the brand vital and dynamic by fulfilling the actual ambitions and aspirations of their consumers, and without losing or diluting its roots. The Brand Prototyping Process® is crossing the bridge in one of the most complex challenges in contemporary branding: it provides continuity in a world of discontinuity.
Michel Jansen is a senior consultant at brand consultancy HIGHvalue.