Episode 74: Time to bin binary brand archetypes

Episode 74: Time to bin binary brand archetypes

How to humanise your brand

This podcast will:

  • Demonstrate the fallacy of single brand archetypes
  • Explore how to tune different archetypes to create the perfect branding blend
  • Examine the factors that foster emotional connections with customers
Podcast transcript

Sophie Peterson  00:03

Welcome to the CIM Marketing Podcast. The contents and views expressed by individuals in the CIM Marketing Podcast are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the companies they work for. We hope you enjoy the episode.


Ben Walker  00:18

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the CIM Marketing Podcast. And today we're going to be talking about a very exciting topic, humanising your brand. And with us today to discuss this is Richard Gillingwater, who is founder of RADNB. Hi, Richard, how are you?


Richard Gillingwater  00:34

Very well, Ben, lovely to be here.


Ben Walker  00:37

Great to have you on the show. And making her third or fourth appearance, the great Natalie Spearing, who is marketing director of CIM itself at Moor Hall. How are you, Natalie?


Natalie Spearing  00:48

I'm very well, Ben, thank you very much looking forward to the discussion.


Ben Walker  00:53

Should be a fascinating discussion and a tough one to get our head around. But I'm pretty sure that Richard who is expert in this area is going to help us. So Richard, tell us a little bit about what you mean, about humanising your brand and how we might go about doing it.


Richard Gillingwater  01:11

Well, Ben, everybody in our industry wants to create an emotional connection with their audience, they want to connect at a deeper level tell their story in a more powerful, relevant way to the needs of the audience. And so what they're trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to understand what trying to say, say in a way that's relevant to them in an interesting and dynamic way. And really, at the heart of all of this is how we use these archetypal tones and these underlying patterns within communication to make it more emotionally engaging, make it more authentic, and more relevant to the needs of the audience.


Ben Walker  01:52

When you're trying to teach people how to do that, what are the techniques use what are the factors that lead to has been able to humanise as you put it, our brand?


Richard Gillingwater  02:03

The listeners may have heard of the term archetypes, but I want to try and get them to bin what they may have thought or believed about archetypes. So archetypes in the past have been something that this character or this single set of tone of voice. Brands now use blends of multiple archetypal tones at different stages. So one point in their advertising, they could actually blend two or three different archetypal tones to make what they're saying interesting and relevant. But then later in the website, they'll talk about another set of tones. And it's really about how these brands are blending these to create a unifying personality. But one that's interesting, that's got depth. Because at the end of the day, Ben, we are human, we have multiple needs. There's multiple aspects to us. And brands that reflect that in their communication in the way they speak, then speak to us. And more importantly, people can actually tune in to the bit that's most relevant to them. If you're just saying one thing in one tone, it becomes boring.


Ben Walker  03:11

Really, really interesting, isn't it? You're using this phraseology humanising your brand. It almost sounds like a truism to say but it's a great frame, you're talking about making brands more human. And humans have moods. They have different personalities on different days of the week, they are liked by some people and disliked by others. Other people's perceptions of us differ from another person's perception of us. And that's what you're trying to get to and away from this sort of single solid archetype personality that is our brand and there's only one thing you're saying that it's we are many things, we need to know how to apply them.


Richard Gillingwater  03:48

Totally, it's all about engagement. It's all about that connection. It's all about telling your story that's richer, tells me a movie, where it's got one character. The structure of narrative is actually about blending opposing needs. So the most classic thing that lots of organisations will say is we make the complex, simple. But that's two opposing needs. And to actually bring that to life, you've got to explain the concept of complexity. And then you've got to explain the concept of simplicity. And that requires two archetypal tones. And that's what you start to blend but then you go beyond that, because then you want to start bringing in caring if we look at the recent Lloyd's campaign with the horse, and by your side, that's blending an awful lot. That's blending the Guardian and The companion and the guide. So you've got this amazing richness and depth. And what that means is if somebody wants more of a guardian aspect, they tune into that they naturally do that themselves. And therefore the brand resonates really well. Whereas somebody who wants more the guide that will resonate for them, they they will pick and mix. This is a buffet, that people come and choose to what they want to eat, as opposed to the old way, which was what you served up and just presented to them. And if they didn't like it, they moved on. This is about narrative. It's about storytelling. It's about engaging, it's about richness and depth, to actually make people feel the anthropomorphic nature that you're more connected to this brand.


Ben Walker  05:27

That is mind blowing for some marketers, who- or people who work for marketers, who are used to a solid, strict brand guideline, you're trying to move away from there to create a mood a brand a blend, if you like,.


Richard Gillingwater  05:39

Ben, Ben the truth is, nobody does that a single thing, right? I have not mapped a single brand, that black that does that. Like, they may say, Oh, our personality is this and we're fixed. But then you see that they actually do it in multiple ways. Because the need demands it the product demands it. The audience type demands it the channel demands it, that you filter it that you edit it that you change it to that appropriate thing. So nobody does it. It's just a reality.


Ben Walker  06:10

We're throwing away the shackles, removing the handcuffs, trying to present ourselves in a multifaceted, more human and humane way. How on earth? Do we communicate that to our teams, Natalie Spearing?


Natalie Spearing  06:24

I don't even know where to start. Absolutely right and it's the kind of reason as I alluded to, I think, where I actually looked at this on a Sunday afternoon, came up on my LinkedIn feed, and I thought, Oh, my goodness, finally, somebody has actually articulated what I've been thinking, for probably the last 20 or 30 years, and probably more, I suppose more recently, the last sort of 10 years where as Rich was saying, you know, we have reached a point where the storytelling piece has become even more important, how we tell it in multiple different channels, our personalization elements of what we need to do, obviously, when we're talking to our customers, so it's that kind of idea of blending rather than this singularity. And I think that's been one of the most difficult things for marketing departments to kind of get their heads around. And, you know, I've presided over some huge brands, I suppose, over my career, where I've had to build brand guidelines. And what's always fascinated me is almost there's one page that's got tone of voice, and everything else is about the fonts and the colours, and you know, all of the other stuff that kind of makes up the brand. But we're almost a little bit afraid of it. And I think it's, it's that singularity piece where we've struggled to, if we're talking to a younger audience, or we're talking to an older audience, or if we're talking to, you know, a female audience, or whatever, or we just need to kind of slightly amplify what we're saying here or dial it up or dial it down.  And I think actually, when I read through the the research that had gone into this, obviously that rich did with Imperial I, it just kind of a little light bulb kind of went off in my head, and I was just absolutely fascinated by it. And I think the the broader kind of questions then start to come out around, how do you use it? How do you bring that to life? You know, how do you articulate that within an organisation where lots of people are working on different types of communication, but kind of had to park that and just kind of embrace the moment and realise that there is a different way of us being able to just capture it. And so that's kind of for me was the start point and the start point of the discussions really, with with rich and understanding this world a bit more.


Richard Gillingwater  09:02

Natalie, I'm glad you said that it just made sense to you because it's taken three years to build this database. And as we did that we offered to marketing managers around the world as I've spoken to everybody from the head of PepsiCo to local building societies. They all said, what you've done, Richard is explained to us what we inherently knew, but couldn't describe actually given us the language to actually understand that and it's really interesting because language is the greatest barrier to actually using the concept of archetypes because words can mean anything. We can talk about the word of safety, or, or truth or trust, but it means a million things and what we've actually done in our database is built a base around feeling, how it makes you feel, and the critical elements within what what Carl Jung called a feeling tone with archetypes. Is that there's three important aspects. There's the narrative, there's the thought, there's the embodied emotion, which comes from the gut and the heart and then floods the brain and changes our neural connections and the narratives that formed, but it's also actions, it's the body. And what we actually now know as archetypes are not these characters. But there are archetypal patterns of thoughts, emotions and actions, which when they align, create this symmetry, create this synergy, which actually is fundamental to brands because that whole idea of cognitive ease is when it's easy to understand, when what you say, just aligns in people. And what happens is, archetypes help us align thought, emotion, and action, ie the imagery, the sound, that we're hearing the words that's on the page, so that when we actually align what's been said, with what we see, we are at cognitive ease. And that is then becomes really powerful, because it opens us up.  And all the research shows that we're more likely to buy from brands that we feel easier to have digested, what they all have to avoid is disconnect, where you're choosing the wrong blend, it just jars. And that creates disconnect in terms of this cognitive ease. You just don't feel it ease with the brand, you feel like you're having to work too hard. And we know that turns people off,


Ben Walker  11:31

Potentially Natalie, it's gonna make marketing and much more creative and interesting pursuit to frame it in this way. It's the difference between giving a person a bunch of ingredients and a great kitchen as they go and make something delicious, versus having them stick to a rigorous recipe that somebody else has laid down for them.


Natalie Spearing  11:49

Yeah, absolutely. I think there's a couple of things in there that are really interesting. So I think it creates for me, it creates a massive opportunity. So I think Richard picked up on the idea that we tend to get into fairly rigid patterns. And I think that is absolutely true. And I think looking at looking at our own kind of mapping and some of the stuff that you kind of did for us, I think that that automatically kind of jumped out to me where it was potentially safe space. And I think what what tends to happen in the safe space, is that everybody does the safe space, and then you end up in an area where you're cancelling each other out. So you're almost all having the same conversation in the same way, using the same imagery.  You know, we've we've kind of I suppose, again, we've got into that as a fast way of getting creative out, everybody's using, you know, stock colours, same stock libraries using the same imagery. And so it tends to them that creativity is kind of, again, very diminished in that conversation. So I think this gives you a really good visual insight into that. So it's really easy to see and easy to share. And and actually gives you a really good way of being able to almost set the dial and show how you're moving the dial as well. So in terms of that kind of measurement, you know, so if you do say, well, actually, we should be here, but we're not playing here. For some reason. This is kind of where we should be this combination of this blend of different archetypes, this is where we really want to be. And this is where we believe we are, we are different. But we're not there at the moment. But actually, it helps us to visually even track and monitor moving that dial the kind of blend of art and science because it is a sort of scientific approach in a lot of ways to looking at creativity. It allows us to marry those two things up together. And I think that's where it's that that's potentially where it could be very helpful in organisations as well not just in marketing departments where you do want to either reposition the brand or you do want to take the brand or more of a journey towards something else.


Richard Gillingwater  14:08

On that point, Natalie, there's a really interesting point that we did with the work with Imperial College London because when I started this project, I never intended it to be this big, right this was this was a personal lockdown project for just creating a bit of a database for me to to analyse stuff and with the academic rigour that came in with Imperial College London, I have learned so much that I am not an academic, I love learning, but I'm not an academic. I don't pretend to be in that sense and the rigour that they came in and framed everything and helped me understand how to then look at this. So one of the things that we did very early on was make sure we had a map and there basically needs based so we what motivates human behaviour is never a single need to all the more motivational theories from McClelland to Maslow's hierarchy says it's never single need, it's always a blend, often opposing needs that come together that drive our behaviour. Right. And that's what makes it interesting when you've got these opposing needs. So what we wanted to do was create a map and the beauty about a map is it, it starts to show you where you are, but most importantly, where you're not. On the map, you see the neighbours who are closest. So a little bit like neural activity within the mind, you stimulate one area, let's say like the companion, but the neighbour to that is the caregiver. So naturally, you get an impact. If you're in the companion area, you will naturally get if you want to do a little bit of caregiver if you move down towards that area, but also the companion can move towards the lover archetype. So there's blends even in that one area. And and what you mentioned this area, but everybody being the same. 


One of the key things that we've found is there's a thing called what we're calling sector narrative. So there's a narrative to the sector, which if you do not say that, again, this cognitive ease, people are going well, you're not of this, a car company and cannot be seen to be not talking about electric vehicles, can't be talking about passion and speed, but also safety, right? These are sort of fundamentals. And every sector you look at there is this underlying element. So what we actually find is that 80%, are often similar, and it's a 20% and it's the way you blend them that makes you unique. If you blend these well, you say well, and that makes you authentic. And what we find is it's more important to be authentic, than it is to be distinct. Authenticity itself is the route to engagement, and a route to effectiveness, as opposed to distinctiveness, which actually is contrary because people want to be able to quickly and easily understand it. And if you're too different, they have to work too hard. So it's finding actually, the balance says, we're in this sector, we're relevant, we understand it, but not so we'll tick that box. We're different in this way. But we're different because we understand and reflect your story. And what brands are doing is not telling their story. They're telling the customer story, the customer sees them in their story, and says:  You are relevant to me. Brands if they just keep thinking I'm telling my story. People are not interested in your story. They're interested in their story. So what brands powerful brands do really well is a tell these really rich, interesting stories that people connect to. And at one point, they may be talking about mental health, they might be talking about wellbeing in that next they're talking about a software product. Next, they're talking about saving the planet. These are things that people get concerned with, whether it's on social media, whether it's in campaigns, and they're having to blend all of this together within an overall narrative. It is a challenge we are this is our expertise. This is what we do beautifully, and we're doing brilliantly, right. And all of this modelling that we're doing all of this understanding and pulling apart is what we do inherently but by knowing it, we can actually then do it more powerfully. 


There's a lovely creative tool called de Bono's thinking hats where you put on these different hats. Historically, there has always been 12. And let me say, there are 12 archetypes. It was a lady called Carol Pearson not Carl Jung who developed the 12 archetypes. Carl Jung talked about archetypes as the concept that these were these archetypal patterns. And by the way, had this lovely phrase which said: if you see an archetype just as a character, then it can mean anything, and nothing at all at the same time. It's only when the archetype has this emotional feeling tone to it, that it becomes relevant. And then an action pursues. And it is this fact that you're connecting action behaviour, with movement, with then emotion with thoughts, and when all those triggered together. So that's why sound is becoming far more powerful in branding. Because sound is a way to get people in more emotionally connected. And what we're also finding is that strong brands, what they do is they build these neural highways in us so that it becomes easy for them to trigger. They've created these paths, so they, all they have to do is just ignite a small spark and it runs through us. Whereas other brands can say exactly the same thing, and this is where brand strength counts, they can say exactly the same thing, it doesn't have the same effect on us, because it doesn't have that can already embedded connectivity.  When we looked at your brand against competitors and and we do that one of the inter thing things that we were looking at was finding what was in your history? What was the strength of that? And how do we blend the tradition and the heritage and the years with the modern relevance. And this is a challenge that many brands face. And they'll often ditch one for the sake of another on our new brands come in and easy to be all excited and fresh. And how do we balance those things. And this is what brands have to do. Now, they have to tell a story, but it's not their story. It is the customer story, because the customer sees themselves. When we watch your movie, we've seen ourselves, we're seeing ourselves as a hero, as we're seeing ourselves as the lovers, right? It's we're learning about ourselves. And that's what great brands are doing now. They're not just selling these products, they're selling feelings. And those feelings help us learn. And the stories they tell, help us learn, help us connect, help us reconnect with a community of global community. And that's a lovely thing. And in a way, that's exactly what the CIM does.


Ben Walker  21:07

It does, it does. It's an interesting point about movies, because the ones that weren't, successful movies are the ones in which we empathise with the characters to assess we put ourselves in their shoes, we feel their emotions too, not all do that, of course, there are plenty of crap ones around, but the ones that succeed, do. But if you're taking that Natalie Spearing, and you're trying to, in many ways reverse the polarity of the way people might think about brand building is not telling the public about what your brand is. It's asking what the public is to your brand, how they're in part of your brand. How on earth do you start that process, with a marketing team, Richard Gillingwater, has admitted it's not going to be easy, nobody said it would be easy.


Natalie Spearing  21:48

Nobody said that, in the words of the song. I think I think there's there's multiple different ways actually, and I think lots of it's already happening. So I think in in terms of that pure data insight, we've been shifting, obviously, over the last, you know, probably 10 years to be much more customer centric. So a lot of the data we're starting to gather insight is, you know, absolutely at the core, that research and insight piece is absolutely the core of every single marketer of understanding the customer. And in so many ways connected and disconnected to this, you know, we are looking at getting more and more depth and insight into our customers than we've ever had before. So we have that in our kind of kit bag and toolbox, as it were, of marketing things that we can play with. So we've got that bit more insight to at least start that journey and start having those conversations, we see things that I can pick up with Richard in terms of authenticity, we've been having those conversations as marketers, you know, we know as more channels have come become available to us, we know that the things that really resonate with people are the storytelling. And actually the things that resonate with people even more is the user led content. 


So again, that kind of idea that that, you know, customers are telling us their story. And we're almost trying to play that back is already kind of in the narrative, what we're what we're doing already anyway. And when you look at the difference between, you know, the tactical, and that kind of type of delivery, you see as a massive difference in just pushing information out to people telling them this is what we are, this is what we stand for this is you know, this is our brand, this is what you should think about us is a very one dimensional kind of approach to brands. So I think actually that listening post back to customers, you know, that that insight back to customers, really understanding our place in their world, alongside the data creates a completely different relationship with the customer. And I think that that is already, I think a lot of marketers are already thinking that way. And I think a lot of marketing that is done well is really thinking that way. But it is it does put a completely different spin on how we do things. So it's again, it's a mindset shift, you know, it's a it's a different way of working and it's also potentially harder, because it means that we have to kind of it's a two way conversation all the time, you know, listening to the market, listening to our customers, getting that feedback, understanding why we are important to them, or are we important to them? What should we be doing to change that? So, you know, there's lots of different things at play and and lots of different departments actually within organisations that feed into that it's not just the marketing department. You know, those conversations are happening with the customer in customer experience departments, they're happening with our employees in in people and culture teams, you know, so it's not just a singular marketing exercise anymore. It's a much bigger piece and bigger consideration.


Richard Gillingwater  25:05

But one of the interesting things for me, is this overload that was that all marketers are suffering data here, analysis here. So much connection, so many things to do, you know, I remember going back many, many, many years, and marketing seem to be more of a graceful thing. Now, it's very intense, but very driven. And one of the fundamental or the fundamental thing in the work that we have been doing is about mindfulness. It's about being aware of how communication affects us. And what happens is that often, when we're so busy, that in our marketing jobs, we get caught in our head, and we're thinking, and we're getting into what you could say was a judgement mindset, you're feeling potentially judged, ie I'm presenting this, what they're going to say about it. But you're also in this mindset of judging other people, or I like that. And what you're not doing is getting into a feeling and recognising how we do that. So one of the things I would love to feel comes out of this is not just that actually it opens up this underlying structure, which sits beneath all our communication. But actually, as communicators, we start to relearn the art of communicating being feeling ourselves, taking time to recognise when we communicate, how does it make us feel? You know, okay, we might not know 100%, how it's going to make someone else feel. But what's it triggering in us, and the only way we can do that is still the mind. Because it's when we start to stilll the mind, we become aware of like, oh, I can feel it's doing that. There's a whole lot of movement, body awareness, research that shows the connection. So like, for example, when we hear our favourite music, if we move to that we enjoy it more, if we sing along, we move to creates enjoyment. So what we look to do when we map things is we stilll the mind. And then we are aware of what's triggering in us. And that's a beautiful place. Because once you start doing that you knew tuning into that skill, it makes what we do a lot more fun, because it's like this whole body experience. And it's not cognitively tiring all the time. So I'd love that if that was just a byproduct of this, that we get back to being creative, get back to feeling it more back to intuitive trusting our gut feeling. We actually have three brains, right? I love this fact, we actually have three brains, we have the brain in our head, we have a brain in our heart and a brain in our gut. And through the vagus nerve, the gut speaks to the brain and influences it floods you with stuff. And we need to listen to how communication is affecting our whole body, not just judging it, because if we're judging it, we're actually not truly recognising how it engages with people, it works at a deeper level than just cognitive judgement.


Natalie Spearing  28:16

I think that's, I think, is a really, really important point. And actually, you touched on it there in terms of almost the responsibility factor, which I hadn't really considered until you just said it, that, you know, we have become kind of almost overwhelmed with the sheer amount that we're consuming in terms of information and marketing messages and brand messages and things like that. And I think in terms of slowing that down, sometimes it gives us the space to breathe, but there is this almost, again, a slight mind mind shift that has to happen in organisations into departments and, you know, marketing teams, and that that kind of almost constant consumption of things all the time is that the brain is constantly in that mode all the time. So it needs to be I think we have a you know, we have a responsibility, I think as you, as you kind of pointed out as, as marketers, to kind of take that deep breath and actually get back to and I think that is the bit that's missing. Now, the creativity is that we, we rush to the creative, the creative sometimes can even be the afterthought rather than the start point. And unfortunately, what that, you know, the knock on effect that that then has is that people aren't stopping to actually breathe and consider and really reflect on that as a kind of whole concept. They're just like you said, it's a like a share and move on. It's the it's a judgement call rather than a creative feeling or something that actually evokes an emotion.


Richard Gillingwater  29:55

We're not We're not giving our designers, our comms people the skills to make those judgments that that are informed that they can go, No, I recognise these patterns. And that's why we should do this. Whereas often it's just a judgement. And if you've got nothing to say, you're then influenced by somebody else. And, you know, years ago in the creative industry, creatives took time they had fun, they played around. But most importantly, they trusted their gut, they felt stuff, right, that feeling was really important. And what feeling does is it creates empathy makes us listen to what communication is saying to us. And we then have to become experts. It's a little bit like Henry Ford said, if you ask customers what they want just faster horses scenario, that what we have to look is creatively find new ways to engage in blend. And we can't always do that, from asking customers, what we have to do we trust our own feelings. And this tool is a way just to give us that skills. Look, we're the only system that I understand anywhere in the world that has mapped 60 archetypal tones, right? If there's one thing I would love to do, is get rid of all those diagrams that show 12 archetypes where it goes, oh, Mercedes, the ruler, whatever brand is this archetype is in like, it's a binary where this right just if that if that's in your collection, ditch it, please, if you just get one thing out of this lesson, which is that whole circular framework of you know, Harley Davidson is the rebel, right? It's so much more than just a rebel archetype, right? And in fact, it has to be, it's got these fans who love it, they're passionate, they're seekers, they're travellers, right? There's so much richness to the to the Harley Davidson brand. It's not just a rebel, it's a component. But it's not that right. So if anything, that 12 archetypal model of just this brand is this, we're this I came across an agency said that said, British Airways, they're the explorer archetype. I was thinking, what basis is that? What a no, actually, what do you mean by explorer? What just because they travel there and explorer as opposed to a sage? I mean, how primitive is that as a concept, right? What what we actually do is we look at what brands good and bad, the intention was to map everything. And what we did was we mapped what they actually communicate, not what they what people may think, or say, to try and put them in a box that makes it easy for marketers or consultants to say, Oh, you're this or you're that. And it's just this richness that they naturally do. And Ben, you know, we had that conversation right at the beginning, which was, oh, what, which one, are we? And it's like, no, they're already doing this. But people, you know, Natalie, you are already doing it in your team, you're already blending it. Everybody's doing that. We just, this is about pulling that science apart, that informs us so we can be more creative in the way we find these blends, that we can trust ourselves, we can have more fun doing it. And it's just a more beautiful experience for communicating.


Ben Walker  33:18

Absolutely reconnecting to our emotions, building empathy and ditching static frameworks. It probably is going to be a bit harder, at least for a while, but it's going to be much more rewarding, much better for our customers and crucially, much more fun. Natalie Spearing, Richard Gillingwater, thank you very much indeed for your time today. I'm sure our audience will take a lot from this. I want you both to come back on the show in a year and see how as individuals and as an industry we are getting on with reframing marketing in this way. Thank you very much.


Natalie Spearing  33:51



Richard Gillingwater  33:51

Thanks, Ben. Thanks, Natalie.


Sophie Peterson  33:54

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CIM Marketing Podcast.



Ben Walker Host CIM Marketing Podcast
Richard Gillingwater Founder RADNB
Natalie Spearing Marketing director CIM
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