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Brand Archetype FAQ: Will our archetype change based on the products we offer?”

Nyla Smith | Monday, April 30, 2018

Another variation of the question is “Can/Should/How do we introduce new product offerings if they don’t align with our current brand archetype?” 

(Brand archetypes are the secret sauce to creating stronger brands, and are an essential tool for any marketing toolbox! To learn more, read the introduction here.)

This question tends to rear its head in two common scenarios:

  1. You have an entrepreneurial lifestyle doing a lot of different things to generate income. You decide it’s time to focus on developing your “brand”. But you don’t see how your diverse ventures can all connect to a single archetype.
  2. You’ve been in business for some time. You believe you can increase your profits by expanding your offerings to appeal to more than one target audience.

Many businesses find themselves in one of these places at some point. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. There are a variety of factors that come into play in a decision such as this. But there are some questions you absolutely must consider before making a decision.

#1: How do you know it doesn’t align with your archetype? Why do you think this?

Sometimes, the assumption that your products don't match your archetype stems from having a too narrow or stereotypical view of what your archetype is. The Lover is a great example of an easily misunderstood archetype. A hallmark of the Lover is passion. Passionate about things it can experience with the senses and passionate about connecting with these experiences and other people. If you only think about Lover archetypes as being Victoria’s Secret, you are doing a disservice to the Lover that is Hallmark. You may be putting yourself into a box without realizing the depth of meaning your archetype can actually embody and express. It’s possible that with the right positioning, your new product offering actually can align with your archetype, without feeling forced or inauthentic. You just may need to change how you are thinking about your archetype and how you should position your new offering when marketing to the public. Perhaps it’s only a matter of highlighting a different attribute of your product so that people will think about it in a fresh way.

#2: How different are your product offerings? Is there any common thread among them?

If your brand sells artisan cheese to foodies and you decide you want to start selling motor oil for high performance sports cars, you’re going to have a tough time with branding. (And no, a double-sided business card is not the answer. True story.) On the other hand, if you sell artisan cheese and you decide you want to start selling imported wines, that new product offering wouldn’t disrupt the space your current brand fills in the minds of your consumers.

Even if you yourself are highly passionate about both cheese and motor oil, it doesn’t make sense to try and bring them together under one brand. Pick one, or keep them completely separate.

#3: Is your archetype based on your what instead of your why/how?

In competitive markets especially, the number of players selling the same products/services as you will be high. If your archetype is focused on the what, you will usually have a more difficult time differentiating from others in your industry. When instead you focus on your why or how, you are not pigeonholing yourself into a certain type of product and it becomes easier to branch out to related offerings because you can tie everything back to a common motivation, value, process, or mission.

This again comes back to your brand positioning. What do your customers know you for? There’s a difference between selling a product and delivering a promise. Or selling a product versus creating an experience. The founder of Revlon Cosmetics, Charles Revson, famously said, “In the factory, we make cosmetics. In the store, we sell hope.” Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, puts it this way: “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” And he summarized the core messaging of Apple as an example:

“Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.

We just happen to make great computers.”

This kind of positioning is what allows Apple to be known as an innovative technology company that can seamlessly expand into phones, watches and smart homes, instead of simply a computer manufacturer. If you think your new product offering doesn’t align with your existing archetype because it’s based on a “what” that is too limiting, then go back to your “why” and adjust your brand expression from there.

#4: If it’s such a departure from your current brand identity, why are you even doing it?

Pump the brakes and think about if this is even a good idea to pursue. Examine your motives. Is it because this new thing has become trendy in recent years? Is it because your competitor did it and you feel you need to keep up? Is it because you’re desperate for something to salvage poor sales? Is it because your customers have been asking for it? Is it to future-proof your business? Is it a natural next step in your brand's evolution? Is it simply something you’re passionate about or skilled at delivering?

Step back and consider what is necessary and what aligns with your brand. The thing about branding is that it thrives on consistency. Which means that staying on-brand, consistently, over time, is critical. A decision to go off-brand should not be taken lightly. Is a wayward product offering worth diluting your brand and eroding consumer trust?

Is there ever a good reason to introduce new product offerings? Of course. Innovation and adaptability are key drivers of a successful business, regardless of brand archetype. Change is inevitable. But when the opportunity to change presents itself, you want to proceed in the smartest way. If your product offerings are all very diverse, this leads us to one last question…

#5: Should your products have their own separate brands?

If you are truly determined to roll out this new offering (or continue to brand diverse products under one company name), then you have a decision to make. Do you focus on branding your company or do you focus on branding your products? To answer this, you have to look at what users are interacting with, because that’s what a "brand" is – it’s the experiences and impressions that people have. If your company is simply an umbrella entity and consumers don’t even know (or need to know) it’s there, then you may want to focus on separately branding each of your product offerings instead, and allow each to stand on its own. Particularly if your product offerings appeal to different target audiences.

How a multi-billion dollar company handles the branding of different products

As of 2018, Procter & Gamble owns roughly 70 brands, with 25 of them each generating billions.

Let’s take a simplified look at a real-life example: Procter & Gamble. P&G is a gigantic multinational company that owns brands we interact with every day. Bounty, Crest, Dawn, Gillette, Pampers, and Old Spice are just a few. For all intents and purposes, P&G falls to the background. They don’t really focus on branding themselves; they focus on branding the brands (products) they own. Because that’s what users are buying. That’s what they’re interacting with. When you reach for a tube of toothpaste on a store shelf, you’re likely not thinking about a manufacturer, an owner, a Board of Directors – why would you? You’re guided by the toothpaste brand itself and the memories and emotional associations it holds for you.

This is not to say that P&G ignores their own brand. In fact, they defend their decision to occasionally highlight themselves as a parent brand when it makes sense to do so. This is no more clearly shown by their decision to become a top Olympic sponsor, an opportunity that allowed them to demonstrate their corporate brand values and highlight their various child brands around the world. (Remember the emotional “Thank You, Mom” campaign?) In a 2010 statement, then CEO A.G. Lafley said, “P&G is a company of brands, but our company is a brand, itself, as well. Our equity, which is grounded in P&G's unique PVP's and culture is: In touch. In the lead. Improving lives everyday. This is what we want P&G — and P&G people — to stand for uniquely, in the hearts and minds of those who know us."

Their website states, “P&G is made of many individual brands, each serving customers in different ways — but all with a focus on making peoples’ lives a little easier.”

Don't assume all the brands P&G owns share the same brand archetype as the parent company or each other. Some do – Charmin, like many other P&G brands, is a a strong Innocent. And there are quite a few Caregiver brands in the mix. But Old Spice is most certainly a Jester brand. Yet, this isn’t a problem for P&G because of the common thread running throughout. While P&G brands cover a range of categories (baby care, feminine care, family care, health, and grooming products), they all fall under the general category of personal care… AND they also all support P&G’s stated mission to make people’s daily lives a little easier.

Can we pause here to appreciate P&G's marketing of Tide during 2018's Super Bowl? Because they have a portfolio of related brands, they were able to successfully leverage the opportunity to seamlessly cross promote other brands they owned. It almost makes perfect sense that Mr. Clean and Tide would show up in the same commercial!

It doesn’t take a huge mental leap to go from toothpaste to deodorant, or from Swiffer to Febreze, or from Mr. Clean to Tide. But would it surprise you to know P&G once owned Crisco and Pringles? Right, so that bewildered feeling you have right now is exactly what you want to avoid within your own brand. You have an understanding of what P&G represents (notably, personal care products that improve our daily lives) and anything that runs contrary to that conflicts with your understanding of their brand. Not a good thing. Ultimately, P&G sold off its food brands because they weren’t a fit for its brand portfolio. P&G understood that the company was better off focusing on a core suite of related brands. (Though I would argue their ownership of the Duracell brand still seems a bit of an outlier.) It didn’t make business sense for them to continue to invest in highly divergent product offerings, as it diluted their focus, stretched their resources, and introduced confusion as to who they were and what they represented.

The Final Answer?

There is always a lot to consider when you are working out your brand positioning, and it doesn’t always get easier as your brand matures — the considerations just change. Yet, here is a final piece of advice: Keep it as simple as possible. If it is difficult for you to make sense of, being intimately involved with your brand on a daily basis, think about how much more confusing it can be for someone who is on the outside and only interacts with your brand occassionally. A benefit of using archetypal theory for your branding is that it helps make decisions like this easier. Remember our mantra: If it doesn’t align, it can hurt the bottom line. When you already have a certain amount of brand equity, you take a risk in introducing something wildly different. And if you're just getting started, that would be a poor foundation to set. Sure, you may appeal to a separate audience psychographic, but you risk losing those who were attracted (or would be attracted) to your original archetype in the first place.

Long story short: If there’s not a way to have all of your offerings make sense with your current brand archetype, you have three options:

  1. Change your product offering.
  2. Create an entirely separate branding effort around your product(s).
  3. Reassess the validity and expression of your brand archetype.

Keep in mind: if your archetype is truly authentic, then no matter what products you offer, your archetype will find a way to be expressed through them regardless. In other words, your YOU will shine through... someway, somehow. So, stick with product offerings that can truly be an authentic reflection of your brand and be part of a cohesive whole. It will make things easier for everyone — you and your customers.

Go Deeper

Do you have a burning question about brand archetypes? Want to dig deep and explore the hidden potential of your brand's personality? Let us know! We will be happy to schedule a consultation to find out how you can use the power of brand archetypes in your marketing. Still haven’t taken the quiz? Set aside ten minutes and do it here: brandpersonalityquiz.com.

Nyla Smith is a Graphic Designer, Web Designer, Front-End Web Developer and Consultant with over 12 years of experience. She is the owner of n-Vision Designs, LLC in Hampton, Virginia, which exists to provide marketing support and brand consulting to small- and medium-sized businesses needing creative solutions. Contact Nyla if you'd like to discuss your next creative project. She can usually be bribed to a meeting with a cup of green tea and an oatmeal cookie.
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