Expert Report(extract from The Matriarchy of Brands)
We refer to the Matriarchy of Brands because the world of brands is dominated by feminine influences. While there are several distinctly masculine types, the overall balance tips in favor of the feminine. Since women make the majority of purchasing decisions worldwide, this should not come as a surprise. The real surprise (and treat!) is that brands respond to only a handful of archetypes that once understood, unlock much of the mystery in developing and executing brand strategy and communication tactics.
7 Secrets to Brand Success (Part 1)
- A brand is a story. Period.
- The story exists in the minds of customers, not brand owners.
- You didn’t invent the story—and neither did your customers.
- Stick to the story. “That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”
- Believe in the story.
- The stories are fairy tales (we also call them true lies).
- There are only seven key stories (fundamental brand archetypes).
Each of the seven key brand types answers a specific unmet emotional requirement that is distinct from all the others. In order, here are the seven types:
Introduction to Archetype I: The House Brand
The House Brand is one of the most vital of all brand types in the marketplace. Without the House Brand there would be no yardstick to measure against, for House Brands are the ‘anti-brands’ of branding. Everything that we tend to think of as brand—expensive, exclusive, even hyped-up puffery—is exactly what House Brands are not.
House brands are the workhorses of the brand economy. They rely on volume sales and mass appeal to create their unique and special place in the market. It is anathema to a House Brand to appeal to specialized tastes or unique needs, for the House Brand seeks out the requirements of the common man or woman and woos with the irresistible value and comfort of a home-cooked meal. Not for the House Brand are out-size budgets or gourmet tastes. House Brands don’t cater to eccentric needs or out-of-control egos. No, the House Brand appeals to the practical, the down-to-earth, the easy-going, the comfortable and the frugal.
Some of the most profitable (and promiscuous) brands are House Brands. Creating success through the House Brand formula is not easy, for to be successful it must develop and master a delivery platform superior in efficiency to all competitors. Once successful, however, a well-positioned House Brand is very difficult to overturn, and it therefore grows and grows. Billions may be served.
House Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The House Brand presents anything everyday is for sale at a (low) price. Fundamentally the value proposition of the House Brand is ‘more for less’ i.e. you’ll get more ‘stuff’ for less ‘loose change’.
- There are essentially two variations: male and female. The underlying promises are ‘tinted’ versions of the Castle and Palace archetypes.
- Color palettes: Generally Middle Blue and Yellow/Gold, or Red and Yellow/Gold.
- Color analysis: The primary red or blue (gender identity) colors refer to the mature quality of the House archetype while the yellow or gold refers to the ‘price’ component. In archetypal terms the yellow/gold indicates a patina of aging or wear from a life of promiscuity. It is crucial to include the Yellow/Gold accent in the overall color palette otherwise the communication will be off-code. This is one of the most frequent mistakes/omissions in House Brand grocery store products. The Yellow/Gold in combination with the Blue or Red (not both) indicates VALUE—not only low price, but reliable quality.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: Eldest daughter (the whore).
- Popular American examples: Wal-Mart (Mid-Blue & Yellow), McDonald’s (Red & Yellow).
- Not to be confused with: The Bridge Brand, which frequently also uses Blue and Gold, though is better using Navy or Black and Orange or Pewter. While the colors may overlap with some Bridge Brands (eg. IKEA), the promise is distinctly different.
Introduction to Archetype II: The Tower Brand
Like the Bridge Brand, the Tower Brand occupies a mid-priced level in the branding world and is utilized by successful retailers and retail brands who are interested in promoting a lifestyle quality to their service experience and sell based on the quality of this experience more than on the basis of price. There is a unique quality to Tower Brands that make them irreplaceable in the eyes of their converts, belying their simple promise of beauty.
Tower Brands can produce major sales volumes but do not compete on price therefore their popularity is always limited to the number within the population who can afford their experience. It is no wonder then, that some of the most well-known and popular Tower Brands sell what are normally low-priced, even everyday items, but at a significant premium. Many people can afford a small splurge, and a Tower Brand is well positioned for this experience.
Ultimately, the Tower Brand connotes a strong sense of youth with a debutante’s sense of sophisticated popularity. One key to maintaining profits for the Tower Brand is continual aesthetic innovation combined with a strong sense of identity and core values that remain stable. There is a strong undercurrent of sex appeal to the successful Tower Brand, but it is never overt. Rather, it is the covert ‘forbidden’ sex appeal of the adolescent virgin that rides just under the radar of the successful Tower Brand making it perennially appealing due to its clean-cut, fresh and always stylish nature.
Tower Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The Tower Brand creates its own universe where the primary attraction is the delivery of a sense of popularity and exclusivity to its converts.
- The Tower Brand is a feminine archetype.
- Color palettes: Generally Kelly or Mid-Green with Black, OR Barbie Pink.
- Special Note regarding the color green and branding: Although many groups with an environmental cause have adopted Green as their color, it is NOT the archetypal color for the environment or environmental causes. (This color is blue). Therefore in the case of Tower Brands, do not confuse the green color scheme with an environmental message. If there is also an environmental message it is a secondary one—the primary message of green is of youthful beauty, and therefore popularity.
- Color analysis: The color refers to a youthful version of the feminine type where the potential for maturity is indicated but there is also a deep quality of transition or growth in process.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: Youngest daughter (the virgin)
- Popular Global examples: Starbucks (Green & Black), Barbie (Barbie Pink).
Introduction to Archetype III: The Hotel Brand
The Hotel Brand is a unique blend of energies offering a distinct promise of transformation that can exist at many price and service levels. The promise of the outcome is more important to the Hotel Brand than the experience itself.
Hotel Brands have a service quality that tends to provide a wide band of market service. The challenge for all brands is staying focused on core customers. For Hotel Brands, which aim to please through an experience that transforms, this can be an extra challenge. With such a wide promise, Hotel brands must deliver convenience, and typically do so with either a wide variety of choices, many locations, or both.
The successful Hotel Brand excels at both innovation and widespread service delivery. In doing so, it may compete profitably against more narrowly focused brands indefinitely, in market segments that afford sufficient on-going advertising to promote their message of change. Hotel Brands must plan strategically for the fact that while the brand is ultimately providing change, change of loyalty is anathema to brands and branding. Therefore there is a fine line to be held. One thing going for Hotel Brands is that America, Australia, Britain and France all conform to the Hotel Brand as national archetypes, therefore the fundamental message and color scheme of the Hotel Brand naturally resonates in these communities.
Hotel Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The Hotel Brand trades on a promise of choice. Ultimately those loyal to Hotel Brands are purchasing an experience of transformation.
- The Hotel Brand is a masculine archetype with a feminine frame.
- Color palettes: Red, White and Blue. Or Bleu, Blanc et Rouge if you are French.
- Color analysis: The Red refers to the feminine type while the Blue refers to the masculine. The White refers to the gap between them and also the bridge of transformation.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: Youngest son (the flame)
- Popular Global examples: Pepsi and Danone.
Introduction to Archetype IIII: The Bridge Brand
The Bridge Brand is a powerful, fun archetype commonly employed in the fashion world, but little-used elsewhere. This may be changing as the Bridge Brand offers significant and unique advantages in service delivery. The Bridge Brand, more than many other archetypes stands for a specific qualitative flavor of service delivery. There is an accessible nature to Bridge Brands that belies the notable quality of their service experience.
Bridge Brands are for many consumers their first foray into a ‘brand experience’ beyond the House Brand. Typically, Bridge Brands are priced as a ‘bridge’ between less expensive House Brands and more expensive name brands, such as the Castle or Palace archetypes. In the rush to specialize the intermediate territory of the Bridge Brand has been abandoned by many marketers; who perhaps see it as a mere ‘stepping stone’ in the market middle. What may be missing is a clear understanding of the true characteristic of the Bridge Brand, which is neither a cheaper version of name brand, nor a pricier version of house brand, but rather its own unique quality of adventure and fun.
Some of the most interesting (and profitable) consumer brands are Bridge Brands. Successful Bridge Brands inevitably have a distinct, even quirky quality that makes them extremely memorable. They have a youthful quality combined with a degree of maturity that makes them palatable, and even attractive to a variety of age groups. There is a sense in the successful Bridge Brand that it makes up its own universe—one where it is the center and the salvation. This can create powerful loyalties and extremely strong lifetime brand relationships. The successfully conceived Bridge Brand is certainly much more than just a stepping-stone—it is a destination experience.
Bridge Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The Bridge Brand presents its own mid-priced universe where the primary attraction is a combination of community and experience notable for its sense of adventure.
- The Bridge Brand is a masculine archetype.
- Color palettes: Generally Orange/Gold with Black, Navy or sometimes Purple, it may also be represented by Yellow/Gold and Navy.
- Color analysis: The color combinations refer to a youthful version of the masculine type where maturity is indicated but there is also a quality of transition or growth in process.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: Eldest son (the knight, or in modern terms—the jock)
- Popular Global examples: Harley-Davidson (Orange & Black), Ikea (Yellow & Navy).
- Not to be confused with: The House Brand, which sometimes also uses Blue and Yellow. While the colors may overlap with some House Brands (eg. Wal-Mart), the promise is distinctly different.
Introduction to Archetype V: The Castle Brand
The Castle Brand stands close to the top in terms of aspiration. Most importantly, however, it trades on its reputation for reliability and even more, safety, to develop its strong loyalties and perennial profits. The conservative nature of Castle Brands perfectly echoes the sensibilities of their clientele who are motivated more by consistency and concern for their own welfare than by price.
Castle Brands include some of the most stalwart brands in the world, though typically not those at the highest reaches of price, nor those below the median. The concern for quality is so important to Castle Brands that it is unlikely for them to serve below a certain price-point where they feel quality or distribution might suffer. Likewise, their need to be of service to many prevents them from climbing to the most rarified levels of price.
The solid and proven way is the way of the Castle Brand. While generally among the least glamorous of Brand types (utilities are typically Castle Brands), making them among the least suitable for fashion, their reputation for reliability makes them ideal for products or services with a repeating or steady nature.
Castle Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The Castle Brand trades on a promise of safety. Fundamentally Castle Brands promise security or ‘everywhere’.
- The Castle Brand is a masculine archetype.
- Color palettes: Blue (and White) OR Black (and White).
- Color analysis: The Blue refers to the masculine type—specifically to the sky, home of the creator, while the White refers to the possibility surrounding it.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: Father (the king)
- Popular Global examples: Adidas, Ford and IBM. Counterintuitive example: GAP stores
The Palace Brand is a powerful type that can work for timeless name brands at all price levels. The key is that while, like all brands, Palace Brands must at some level innovate, at another level they must never change. The loyalty that customers have to Palace Brands is at the level of ‘motherhood and apple pie’ meaning that change is really very aggravating to their sensibilities and any unwelcome change will be cause for revolt.
Palace Brands include some of the most popular brands in the world, as well as some of the most lofty and desired brands. Palace Brands maintain an aura of mystique combined with a material familiarity that is redolent of both home and hearth while also having a hint of something just beyond definition, or explanation. Most successful Palace Brands capitalize on initial excellent positioning and build long-term success by gradually building up an inventory of brand collateral cues that stimulate an invincible armory of emotionally redolent memories with their customers over time.
The ultimate promise of immortality behind the Palace Brand, is so obviously undeliverable, that ironically it is one of the most believable and iron clad of brand types. Palace Brands trade on product integrity and reputation more than any other brand type. When they break this promise, all havoc breaks loose, but again, they are so strong they normally adjust, make amends and pick up where they left off. Their customers always return once they return to their original promise.
Palace Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The Palace Brand trades on a promise of timelessness. Fundamentally Palace Brands promise eternity or immortality.
- The Palace Brand is a feminine archetype.
- Color palettes: Red (and White—may also include silver or other faint accents) OR Black (and White).
- Color analysis: The Red refers to the feminine type—specifically to the blood of birth, while the White refers to the possibility surrounding it.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: Mother (the queen or empress)
- Popular Global examples: Coca-Cola, CHANEL and Toyota.
The Theater brand is a relatively new archetype in branding. It emerged recently for reasons that business structure, until recently was not receptive to its format. The Theater Brand is the ‘how to’ brand that delivers with a community response. Now that the Theater Brand has emerged its polychrome nature is really coming out of the closet and beginning to sparkle. Theater brands thrive on big challenges and big ideas. Because of this they are often uniquely organized business entities.
Some of the newest and fastest-rising brands (for instance internet properties) are Theater Brands. Many of the most innovative, useful and even ubiquitous products come from Theater Brand environments. Theater Brands deliver on promises that cannot be easily created in a singular environment and they sustain their extraordinary levels of innovation through group participation and input.
Creating success with a Theater Brand requires a commitment to cooperative working arrangements and a pluralistic view of success. After all, a successful Theatre cannot thrive forever on one production alone, no matter how popular. This may be why successful Theater Brands create cultures that are driven to invent, innovate and even change the way the world works.
Theater Brand Notes:
- Primary analysis: The Theater Brand trades on a promise of unity. Basically these brands are the ‘how to’ brands of humanity.
- The Theater Brand is gender neutral within a Matriarchy.
- Color palettes: Red and White alone, OR Polychrome (any/all colors may be used).
- Color analysis: The various colors of the Theater Brand refer to the distinctly different personalities united by the brand, each of which may co-exist without losing its uniqueness.
- Color analysis: The Red refers to the feminine type—specifically to the blood of birth, while the White refers to the possibility surrounding it.
- Fundamental dweller within the archetype: The Family (the theatrical company)
- Popular Global examples: 3M, eBay, Google
About the author:
Bryce Winter is a brand architect with the MarkBrand Group.
He helps people and organizations find optimum ways to communicate their story with the rest of the world. For Bryce, that starts with the conversations that surround, envelop, and emerge from an organization. Branding begins with the people inside a company or group, and then works its way out to their customers and the rest of the world.
Bryce is also an experienced entrepreneur and business coach; and is very involved with systems development and process documentation. He has a professional background and a formal education in color, and have been working with Customer Relationship Management and business profiling systems using computers for 30 years. This provides his clients with a unique longer-term perspective on resolving many of the common and frequent challenges faced by Small Medium Enterprises.