Archetypes in Action: How Historical Reference Fills Day-To-Day Consciousness (+ Unconscious Decision-Making)
The day-to-day landscape of commercial brands fulfills basic human needs of relatedness and connectivity to community.
Today’s commercial landscape (both online and off) represents an ‘apologia’ of sorts to various commercial restraints in the aid of collective community. Let me be clear: our social contract requires that individuals massively conform to a collective commerce that is run by multinational corporations (legally: living, ‘undead’ entities). This social contract is pervasive and forcefully employed. Therefore, in order to be truly effective, it must have some compensation: compensation provided through brand technology.
Brand technology is unlike most other forms of technology in existence. While it frequently runs on other forms of technology (internet, point-of-sale systems, mobile apps) or is delivered through various technologies (television, film and other media) the actual, inherent technology is not technical in any traditional way. Instead, brand technology works through the brain through a predictably successful form of technical psychology, specifically using Gestalt psychology—the aim is to make meaning in an apparently meaningless world, through a ‘whole world’ perspective. This tortuous connection works through the apparent symbology of brand archetypes, through which lens we identify meaning and a place in our world both for brands, and to a greater extent, for ourselves.
The only reason for developing an emotional identification with a brand or company is to fulfill emotional requirements that are not being met through other (human and or corporate) relationships. An emotional gap between need and fulfillment must exist for brand identification to develop.
Pre-existing emotional gaps exist throughout the psychology of ‘consumers’, as indicated in the left-hand diagram. Brands ‘solve’ these issues through a transaction-based currency of commodification (technocracy), on right.
The reasons for emotional gaps existing are as numerous as the individuals facing them—but one thing is common—a requirement for emotional fulfillment is not being satisfactorily met through other forms of relatedness. The forms of emotional non-fulfillment are also numerous, but in terms of fulfillment by brands these may be reduced to a handful of primal requirements or desires which represent continuums throughout the human condition.
The following table describes the top seven brand archetypes in use, and the problems they solve, in the global top-100 brands:
|Brand Domain||Problem / Need||Solution
|House||Sexual Fecundity||More For Less||Denny’s / McDonald’s|
|Tower||Sexual Attractivness||You, Only Better||Starbucks / L’Oréal|
|Bridge||Self-expression||Adventure, Because You Can||Nike / Harley Davidson|
|Hotel||Freedom||Your Choice, Here & Now||Cisco / Pepsi|
|Castle||Survival||Safety, Everywhere||Facebook / Chase Bank|
|Palace||Life||Forever, Immortality||Apple / Coke|
|Theater||Community||Together||Google / 3M|
From every (unfulfilled) emotional requirement we can derive a psychological domain, or reference area. For instance, the primal requirement for sexual attractiveness relates to the psychological domain of popularity. This, in turn, relates to fundamental, or basic questions we all ask—the brand returns an answer—or more fundamentally, a Promise. The question posed by the psychological domain of Popularity is Who?. The unspoken promise is You, Only Better. In this manner, brands deliver an emotionally satisfying response to nearly all gaps in the human emotional condition.
Let us examine how, on a practical design level, some brands interpret their domain and deliver on Unspoken Promises that derive immense psychological satisfaction for Unstated, although quite real psychological requirements.
Example 1: House Brands
House brand signifiers include obvious “House” motifs, including a pitched roof, the cheery red + yellow color scheme, nearby driveway and parking lot as well as a bordering ‘moat’ of green garden space, all laid out on a domestic scale.
“House” brand architecture exhibited at Denny’s in Phoenix (Camelback Road and Seventh Street). Cozy, ‘intimate’ overhangs and protected entrance-way via domestic-scale pathways and common garden plants:
“Homey” interior space includes numerous repetitions of the “House” motif, most noticeably in the ‘pitched roof’ logo, here echoed in decorative interior screens, as well as the ‘down-home’ atmosphere and comfortable/casual service.
Example 2: Castle Brands
Castle brand signifiers include clear “Castle” motifs, including tessellated masonry base, central ‘guarded’ entrance, set-back, moat (usually of asphalt), guard tower, for observation and defense as well as conservative blue color scheme, all laid out on a grander scale.
“Castle” brand architecture exhibited at Chase Bank in Phoenix (Camelback Road and Seventh Street). The central, ‘fortified’ entrance resembles a portcullis, and in fact, does include special security features, even while described in the generic terms of applied decoration of strip-mall America:
Note the ‘regal’ distance: this architecture is placed well back from the street (contrast to Denny’s, above)
Example 3: Palace Brands
Palace brand signifiers include clear “Palace” motifs, including symmetrical design, luxurious or even over-the-top use of expensive materials (the actual structure in this case is made of glass), and an overall design clearly intended to awe, on a bigger than life scale.
Apple’s 767 Fifth Avenue New York store is a well-expressed vision of Apple’s “Palace” brand architecture:
There would be no resonance for brands if there were not emotional gaps in the real-world existence of countless “consumers”. Just as persons unknown clamber continuously to develop thousands of new businesses every day (almost all of which will cease to exist within a few months or a couple of years at most); several thousand have already preceded them and become the most rarified of rarified: successful global brands. These entities, unlike biological people, may last for hundreds of years (HBC, Stella Artois, Louis Vuitton to name a few over 100-year old brands). Their success is our success in establishing unconscious ‘solutions’ to our most basic and primal needs.
Through the illustrations and examples we have demonstrated how just a few of the thousands of day-to-day commercial entities, communicate on a mainly unspoken plane of archetype. Archetypes work because they resonate deep within the human consciousness on the level of dreams, childhood and fairy-tales.
Consistent communication along archetypal pathways may provide psychological solace for individuals’ needs in a consumer society. This sense of psychological relief is what makes brands both effective and almost impermeable to competition, in the short run. Familiarity on an archetypal level is produced through consistent expression of archetypal principals and details that effectively produces a simulacrum of the original type.
For audiences (consumers) seeking connection—with each other, with themselves, with history, perhaps most of all with a sense of meaning and a modus operandi in the challenging global technocracy that is today’s economic reality; archetypal brand associations provide a powerful and resonant beacon system that silently articulates solutions to primordial needs through real-world commercial expression.
LinkedIn Profile Over 25 years deep and wide experience with leading global brands like Chanel, Evian and Virgin Records has given Bryce a wide picture of the world of branding.
He is an expert in new brand architecture, non-advertising models of digital economy, archetypal models of taxonomy, consensus-building economies, and color in ergonomics.
Bryce is a visionary marketer committed to social justice and free-market economy.