How to create a deeper connection with consumers through universally shared archetypes, values, and symbols
In recent years, the concept of branding has become increasingly important in the field of marketing. With the continual growth of the internet and the shift to digital media, brands have become more than just a logo or a slogan — they have evolved into an identity representing a company’s values, mission, and vision.
Now more than ever, brands need a way of connecting with consumers that go beyond traditional marketing methods. One unique strategy to build deeper relationships with people is to analyze how a brand aligns with the collective unconscious.
The collective unconscious is a concept developed by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung (1875–1961) that refers to a part of the human psyche shared among all humans. It is characterized by a set of universal archetypes, values, and symbols representing shared aspects of the human experience, regardless of culture or race. These innate psychological dispositions shape our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
A modern analogy is to imagine the collective unconscious as an inherited database. It is a vast wealth of information dating back to ancient times that we can all access, delivering ubiquitous experiences characteristic of humanity.
By accessing these fundamental human natures and understanding their relationships, brands can create meaningful connections with consumers. This knowledge is essential for successful brand-consumer relationships built on trust and authenticity.
Archetypal figures are characters repeatedly used in literature, film, mythology, and folklore. These figures represent universal beliefs, often symbolic of certain emotions or ideas. Examples of the 12 Jungian archetypes include the hero, the ruler, the creator, the caregiver, and the explorer, to name a few.
A brand’s persona can be mapped onto archetypal figures in various ways. For example, a brand that wants to convey the message of being a reliable, dependable provider can identify with the caregiver archetype. Connecting with this archetype establishes trust and security with customers.
Similarly, brands that want to represent the idea of adventure and exploration can draw from the explorer archetype. This type of persona would create an exciting and inspiring customer experience.
Highly successful brands generally have an intimate knowledge of their archetype. By utilizing this understanding, they can effectively evaluate all their decisions and actions through an archetypal lens, thus achieving a higher degree of consistency with their branding.
The collective unconscious facilitates the transmission of values, beliefs, and attitudes, unified by history, culture, and experience. They are unconscious because they are passed down from generation to generation without direct instruction. These values often dictate behavior and social norms, which can determine how people think and act.
Brand values can tap into the collective unconscious by using these experiences and beliefs to connect with customers. A set of well-established brand values creates an emotive connection that allows people to feel a sense of belonging.
The company Patagonia, for example, list the following as their core values:
- Build the best product
- Cause no unnecessary harm
- Use business to protect nature
- Not bound by convention
By promoting sustainability and environmental protection, Patagonia connects to customers’ feelings of responsibility for the planet and their desire to do what they believe is the right thing. Such a brand becomes part of the customer’s identity by providing a platform for customers to express these inherited beliefs and values.
Carl Jung believed that certain symbols shared a universal meaning and existed within the collective unconscious. Common historical symbols include visuals ranging from natural elements such as fire, water, and the sun, animals such as the snake, lion, and eagle, and symbols of spirituality such as the mandala, Tree of Life, and cross.
Utilizing such symbols from the collective unconscious can establish a visual identity that resonates with a target audience. For example, a brand aimed at athletic professionals may use lion imagery to represent strength, courage, and ambition. And a brand focused on health and wellness may use the Tree of Life to represent growth, vitality, and renewal. Using symbols from the collective unconscious forms an emotional connection, which can help build loyalty and trust.
It is important to remember that a brand is not what a company says it is — it is what the people believe it is. As designers and marketers, we are responsible for tapping into this invisible layer of meaning surrounding a product or service.
When designing a brand, we must consider the various elements of the collective unconscious, such as archetypes, values, and symbols. These characteristics create a narrative that resonates with consumers and connects them to brands more meaningfully.
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