Brand narratives, archetypes and stereotypes

I’ve long been a believer in the power of narratives to help in understanding brands and their values far better than a string of adjectives. One powerful tool is the simple conjunction, ‘and’. Take any brand and begin; ‘He got on his Harley and…’ or ‘She put on her Levis and…’ Then construct a descriptive narrative. Immediately you can begin to understand the underlying brand narratives of maybe the lawyer who rides a Harley because he wants to be thought of as a bit of a rebel and a little dangerous.

To make this effective you need to contextualise it in terms of a personal archetype. In Alastair Compton’s classic book ‘The Craft of Copywriting’, he advised going beyond the dry ‘B/C1 Male, 25-35 etc’ to say, ‘Imagine someone you know who fits the profile… then write as though you were talking to them’.  I would say do the same in brand narratives. ‘George took out his Nokia mobile and…’

Okay, now we are starting to build a brand narrative. It may be necessary to further contextualise the narrative in terms of time and place. If there is a complex audience you may need a number of narratives: ‘Ten year old Tracy went into McDonald’s and…’, ‘Phil the salesman stopped at McDonalds and…’

Narratives are useful tools to use alongside all the quantitative brand data to understand underlying values of the brand and the audiences and their more subtle interactions.


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