How to go beyond the 30’s
spot using archetypes in
I. Why brand storytelling and branded
II. Brand storytelling
III. Brands and the fulfillment of universal
IV. Brand storytelling and archetypes
V. Creating branded content with
archetypes, a case study: Snickers
Roadtrip TV show
We all know that no matter how much we could crave for those glamorous
times when one could smoke and drink in the office, the Mad Man
advertising days are long time gone. The 30 second spot obviously isn’t
Brands are exploring different windows and messages, breaking out of
traditional commercial spaces and trying to merge with entertainment, a
space where we naturally pay attention. The most straight-forward way to do
this has been through classic product placement but that is not enough
anymore either. In order to stand out and to make genuine connections, a
brand must give something back, it must reward the consumer for granting
his time and attention. Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson in their ground
breaking book The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands
Through the Power of Archetypes, cite the work of Mary Jane Schlinger from
the University of Illinois to prove this point:
‘‘ Analyzing viewers’ responses to hundreds of television
commercials, Dr. Schlinger discovered that the most effective ads
demonstrated a principle of “reciprocity”: When the viewer was
“given” something (beyond the information necessary to consummate
the sale) in return for his or her time and attention, the running of the ad
constituted a “fair exchange,” a kind of quid pro quo in return for the
viewer’s time and attention. Viewers were then more likely to consider
rewarding the advertiser with their business.”
Mark p. 290
This is what branded entertainment is about: “reciprocity”
WHY BRAND STORYTELLING AND BRANDED ENTERTAINMENT?
‘‘ In the early days of navigation, mapmakers would mark the
mysterious gaps on their charts with cheerful warnings such as, “There
be dragons!” . . . the truly creative people are those who are irresistibly
drawn to do battle with them.”
The Desingful Company, p.37
So, there be dragons on the way to branded entertaiment. How do we go
beyond the traditional advertising messages? How do we keep our
audience entertained and compete against the endless entertainment
options they are exposed to? What role does the brand have in
entertainment? How does a brand communicate it ́s message through
entertainment without heavy handed, obvious, and tasteless product
placement? How much branding makes the entertainment lose credibility?
When does subtle branding go unnoticed?
There be dragons! It is an interesting journey. We shall be prepared to slay
the dragons. Our weapon: storytelling.
This is the core challenge of branded entertainment: Story Telling
Six words are enough to tell a captivating story. In six words we have
conflict, narrative tension and we can infer characters and the plot. We can
be moved, even feel empathy. Six words are enough, especially if they´re
written by Ernest Hemingway. He is said to have called this short, short story
his best work.
"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."
One of the ways of rewarding our
consumer’s attention is by giving them
entertainment. In turn, when the consumer is
entertained he is more likely to lower his
guard and to let himself be influenced by
How should a brand communicate
How do we move beyond the 30 second
spot? How do we fill the gap between
traditional brand messages and non-
traditional brand entertainment?
In the early days of navigation, mapmakers would
mark the mysterious gaps on their charts with
cheerful warnings such as, “There be dragons!” .
. . the truly creative people are those who are
irresistibly drawn to do battle with them.”
The Designful Company, p. 37
So, there be dragons on the way to branded entertain-
ment. How do we go beyond the traditional advertising
messages? How do we keep your audience entertained,
competing against the endless entertainment options our
audience is exposed to, including Hollywood, primetime
television, music, and live shows? What role does the
brand have in entertainment? How does a brand com-
municate it´s message through entertainment without
heavy handed, obvious, and tasteless product place-
ment? How much branding makes the entertainment los
credibility? When does subtle branding go unnoticed?
This is the challenge of branded entertainment.
There be dragons! It will be an interesting journey. We shall be prepared to slay the
dragons. Our weapon: storytelling.
Stories are strongly associated with entertainment—movies and books and TV shows and
magazines. When children say “Tell me a story,” they’re begging for entertainment, not
Heath p. 208
There has been a lot of work regarding the role of brands in human psychology, many of those
discussions seemed to agree that these days we buy products much more to satisfy
psychological needs than functional ones.
What is a brand? Robert Walker, New York Times Magazine columnist says:
“Branding is really the process of attaching and idea to a product. . . If a product is successfully
tied to an idea, branding persuades people—whether they admit it to pollsters or even fully
understand it themselves—to consume the idea by consuming the product. . . A potent brand
becomes a form of identity in shorthand”
Walker, p. 8
brands and the fullfillment of universal desires
Stories are the cornerstone of branding, Richard Maxwell and Robert
Dickman, in their book The Elements of Persuasion say that “stories are
facts wrapped in emotions and the key to remembering facts is to anchor
them it those emotions” since stories make people act, they provide a tool
for persuasion. Advertising is ultimately about persuasion.
Martin Lindstrom in his book Buyology states that because emotions are the
way in which our brains encode things of value, a brand that engages us
emotionally will win over the one that does not.
So, in a world were people buy for emotional reasons,
having a compelling brand story to tell is a must
However, the skills needed to tell a good brand story in longer forms are not
usually the same skills needed to produce traditional advertising pieces.
The relationship between stories and brand experiences is not so clear.
Think for a moment: what makes
special events special? Why is a
wedding different from any other
gathering? Why is a concert like Live
Aid different from any other concert?
The answer is story.
A wedding is a celebration with a story
that supports it, the story of a man and
a woman who promise each other a
lifetime together. Live Aid is a show
with a story, a show that tries to help
solve a conflict of hunger in Africa.
A good story can also provide
meaning to a product, going beyond
the product’s inherent benefits by
surrounding them with significance
To tell the story of the brand we have to find first the archetypical
persona of that brand and use that archetype to tell stories that are
consistent with the brand archetype.
In the art of storytelling elements like plot, characters, conflict and message
are always part of the narrative but how can we tell a story of a brand that
includes all these?
The theory of brand archetypes provides a very usefull blueprint for making
compelling stories. If used correctly, it can help us define what type of
characters and conflicts can best tell the message we want to
BRANDS AND THE FULFILLMENT OF UNIVERSAL DESIRES
There has been a lot of work regarding the role of brands in human
psychology; many of those discussions seemed to agree that these days we
buy products much more to satisfy psychological needs than functional ones.
If a brand is a sort of halo, a layer of meaning that surrounds a product
then where does that meaning come from?
ng and Archetype
s. If the
Most advertising creatives tend work through the
storytelling elements from intuition. However, if we
intend to use longer form stories successfuly in
advertising through branded entertainment, we need
to let our clients be familiar with these elements and
we should learn to use them from the beginning of
any creative process, even as early on as a support
to the creative brief.
Most of these metaphors are derived from ancient archetypes.
That´s why we chose to work primarily on a brand storytelling model
based on archetypes
Brands essentially strive to
satisfy basic human desires
Those desires have been personified in
universal archetypes present in all
myths, legends, religions and great
Gerald Zaltman states in his book
Marketing Metaphoria that a very
powerful tool to decipher deep levels of
consumer thinking regarding a brand is
to discover the metaphors that this
brand triggers in them.
Archetypes, in Jungian psychology, can be defined as “a primitive mental
image inherited from the earliest human ancestors, and supposed to be
present in the collective unconscious” (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Archetypes have been vastly studied and have even made their way to
popular culture and advertising.
Archetypal brands are classless, ageless, and
regionless, and their deep meaning is unconsciously
embraced by everyone.
As we know Joseph Campbell studied myths from around the world in his
seminal work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, a book which eventually
provided the groundwork for George Lucas’ Star Wars.
More recently, Margaret Mark and Carol Pearson have applied archetypal
theory to the understanding and shaping of successful brands. They
explored the archetypical meaning of brands in their book The Hero and the
Their model connects brands with the problem or human desire they are
trying to solve; then it maps those universal human desires or motivations into
a simple system with two axes with major human drives at each end:
Belonging vs. Independence, and Stability vs. Mastery
Mark and Pearson suggest that if we analyze product categories according to
their original purpose we can map them across this grid of universal human
For instance, beer as a category appeals to a desire to belong, anyone can
have a beer, it doesn’t matter how big your bank account is or what you do
for a living. The beer-drinking spirit is inclusive, it is a sort of unifier, and that
is precisely its appeal.
What would products like health and insurance appeal to? Those brands
appeal to our desire for stability and control. Sporting goods, such as high-
end sneakers, are tools to achieve mastery. Airlines and Travel appeal to our
desire to explore and conquer.
Once a brand is mapped in some point of these axes of human desires the
next step is to find the brand archetype to be able to shape memorable
stories and enduring characters about the brand archetype. A brand can be
the Hero, the Lover or the Joker, once we have a character we can tell the
story about it.
Once up on a time there was a king….
In essence, if brands somehow satisfy universal human desires
we can relate brands to archetypes. Our hypothesis was that we
could tell stories about those archetypes, instead of making long
product placement videos.
These archetypes are portrayed in common stories, tales and legends from
all times and cultures. We all know some version of the story of the Hero, or
the King, the Outlaw, or Romeo the Lover. These are universal stories that
contain powerful archetypical images. That is why they have been repeated
thousands and thousands of times in the stories from the Greeks, Romans,
the Bible, Hollywood, advertising, and so on.
Most stories throughout history and
across cultures show a recurring
set of characters.
Each of these characters has a
primal desire, a set of goals, a
strategy by which they can achieve
these goals, and a gift or special
talent. These qualities can also be
transferred to brands. In fact, the
most successful brands are brands
that consistently convey their identi-
ty in a way that makes sense.
Usually, the “personality” of a
successful brand will fit in very
neatly in an archetype.
BRAND STORYTELLING AND ARCHETYPES
“Just Do It” is a message about giving your best to reach your goals. Nike is
about achievement, about being the best and about winning. Nike is about
mastery. Nike is clearly a hero brand. A hero’s main desire is to prove his
worth though courageous actions. His goal is to prove his mastery in a way
that improves the world. His gift is his competitiveness and bravery. Does
Nike fit into this description?
NIKE, THE HERO
Just Do It
RED BULL, THE
“Gives you wings” is a message about giving you the energy to explore the
world and to create your own path. It’s about having the energy to break the
norm, to master different skills to get you the moon. We all remember the
space diver sponsored by Red Bull, who did the first human skydiving from
the stratosphere, breaking the sound barrier on his descent and becoming
the first human to do so and thereby taking the meaning of the brand slogan
“Red Bull gives you wings” to the ultimate extreme.
If we continue matching successful brands to archetypes, we could find
something like this:
Using these archetypes as guides, we can create characters that correspond
to universal human needs and desires. Characters that are compelling and
believable, who can live through a story that conveys a message that moves
emotions and can be entertaining.
We are fortunate to have the opportunity to put these ideas to the test with an
innovative client, creating a successful award winning branded entertainment
Snickers, the chocolate bar from Mars, was implementing in Mexico the
Snickers Urbania brand strategy. This consisted of organizing massive urban
festivals with competitions in various extreme sports, expressions of urban art
and live music.
In 2009, Mexico City saw the fourth edition of Snickers Urbania, an event and
a extreme sports competition that expected 100 thousand people. We were
called to work on the content around the brand experience and also
implement the digital strategy of the brand and the public relations around
the massive event. The idea was to have a coherent history told trough the
different windows that the brand was planing to use to touch its consumers.
The creative proposition for the content was to work in a genre that is
very typical and relevant for this sort of story: the road movie. Shifting
focus from the competition to a trip around Mexico where some key
competitors would practice in different parks and terrain before the contest.
That was the set up of the story.
CREATING BRANDED CONTENT WITH BRAND ARCHETYPES
Creating branded content with brand archety
A practical case
Snickers, the chocolate bar, is implementing in Mexico the Snickers Urbania stra
Urbania began ten years ago in Russia and has been incredibly successful. So
brand is exporting the concept throughout the world. The strategy consists of organ
multidisciplinary urban festivals, with extreme sports competitions, expressions of
In 2009, Mexico City saw the fourth edition of Snickers Urbania. The event expec
sand people. We were called, for the second time, to work on the content around th
rience. On top of the content, this year we would also implement the digital strateg
and the public relations around the massive event, the idea was to have a cohere
trough the different windows the brand uses to touch its consumers.
• Not to base the content exclusively around the event itself.
• Looked for the stories behind the event we would have much more compelling c
So, going back the the elements of the story, we had to define the message,
conflict, characters, and the plot.
Our story was a story of belonging. A story of how being part of a group
makes you larger than yourself and how having friends and learning from
them enables you to achieve things that you alone could never achieve.
It was the fear of being lonely. Not belonging is the central conflict in the
archetype of the regular guy. There is also another conflict that has to do with
the competitions: the fear of not being good enough, of not giving your best.
The brand brief was instrumental in helping us shape what stories were
coherent with the brands. Snickers is one of the few chocolate bars that has
nuts wich have protein and protein gives you energy. Therefore, Snickers sees
itself as an antidote for hunger and if hunger can’t stop you, nothing can!
The target consumers were male teens between the ages of 18 and 25.
Through extensive international consumer research, Snickers had clearly
identified three motivators in this target:
The need to achieve
The need to explore
and most of all, the need to belong
We selected 4 archetypes to create the brand story:
The Regular Guy
Remember the brand motivators of achieve, explore, and belong? We
matched these motivators to the archetype model and found a set of
universal characters that could help us sketch the type of stories that could
be told around the brand. We came up with the following list:
Is positioned in the belong axis. He enjoys life and the company of others. We
proved that if you can make people laugh, you can be yourself and also be
accepted. Because of his relationship with the desire to belong and the close
resemblance that the Joker has with young Mexican's sense of humor, this
was an ideal archetype to work with.
This archetype worked for the story because it supports the brand brief’s
motivator of “achieve”. The Outlaw archetype follows a different path than
Hero but is positioned in the same mastery axis as him. The Outlaw wants a
revolution, to change the world, to shock and to prove himself. The Outlaw is
especially relevant because it is the archetype most closely related to our
natural characters: young skaters and bmx riders.
Obviously, this archetype works with the brand brief ́s motivator of “explore”.
This archetype helped us contrast the desire to belong with the desire for
freedom and individuality. The Explorer is closely related to puberty, our
target’s stage in life, when they are struggling to find themselves and to draw
their own identities. The Explorer fulfills his desire not only through a symbolic
journey (as do all archetypes), through a real, concrete journey.
This is the quintessential archetype
for Snickers. The brand themselves
had already identified this. For us,
the Regular Guy made sense
because he is in the belong axis.
This archetype provides unity
because he is inclusive and anyone
can identify with him. His main
desire is to connect with others and
he has the gift of common sense, of
having an ordinary but solid set of
With these archetypes in mind, we set about to discover the real skaters and
riders who would tell the Snickers story. The casting process involved a long
interview where we tried to match the kid’s real, genuine stories with these
Since the Snickers Urbania event was not only about the competitions, we
also invited musicians on the trip. We casted two members of Radio Catoche,
an up-and-coming ska band. Their role in the story was to bring in some
flavor and diversity and especially to show the concept of belonging by
seeing the interaction and collaboration between different urban tribes.
The content came to life in different formats:
Thirteen 30” TV chapters, various clips for the webpage and YouTube, one
20” tune-in television spot, with call-to-action to the television show and a
studio recording of Radio Catoche’s song “Mi Vicio es Patinar”, which ended
up as a free mp3 download on Snickers’ Mexican website.
Let’s not forget that our ultimate goal was to sell chocolate bars.
Therefore besides of creating a long TV branded content format we needed
to fulfill a media plan that was carefully designed to meet traditional reach
and frequency goals as well as other KPI’s like social media engagement
and live event attendance.
The last story element we
needed was the plot. The route
on the road would determine
the set of events that shaped
the story. We carefully
designed a trip that would give
us certain scenes and pieces of
the plot to be able to tell a story
in 13-chapter-TV series and that
could also be unfolded in
various sub formats.
The content was received very enthusiastically. The general response was that
the audience related to the stories and the characters. One unexpected
response was that even when the audience was clearly off-target, the story
generated enough resonance and identification for them to engage. We found
that our parents and mother-in-laws enjoyed the story almost as much as the
skaters and riders themselves.
After the experience, the audience felt that the time and attention they gave us
was worthwhile. They got something back from Snickers and they were
entertained and moved.
This case won multiple international awards; Effectiveness Award at Festival of Media Global for the
Snickers Urbania Campaign, Valencia- 2010,, Effie Silver Award for Snicker Urbania Campaign,
now, in return
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Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson, The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through
the Power of Archetypes,New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001.
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Faster & Win More Business, New York: Harper Collins, 2007.
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Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Hero Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and
Transform Our World, New York: HarperOne,1991.
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New York: Basic Books, 2001.
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Rob Walker, Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, New York: Random
The Power of theMyth, JosephCampbell, Anchor Books 1999
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Archetypesand the Collective Unconscious,Carl Jung,Princeton1934
The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay Books 2002
How Customers Think, Gerald Zaltman.
Deep Metaphors at Work, Gerald Zaltman, Harvard Business2008
This campaign was produced during my tenure as General Manager of
Havas Entertainment Mexico, I want to thank the extraordinary team of Havas
Entertainment; Alfredo Cottin Creative Director, Juan Pablo Urrutia Production
Manager, Denisse Chavez Operations Director, Ana Marin Social Media
Coordinator, Gustavo Serrano Community Manager, Mariat Vega Client
Director and our courageous client Andrea Aguilar Chocolate Brand Manager
for Mars Mexico.