Four Characteristics of Archetypes: Autonomy, Affect, Activation, Agency​

In this disturbing and overwhelming time of the coronavirus pandemic, I notice that certain shopping patterns are unusual as consumers rush to stock up, hoard, and despair over out-of-stock items; some may perhaps be worthy of further curiosity on an archetypal, unconscious basis.

The Unconscious Motivations in Ethnography and Market Research: Looking Inward in Observation​​

This is a beginning of a series on the discovery of the unconscious in research using ethnography and depth psychology. “Outside a fresh morning wind rises” (Jung, 2009, p. 278). Keep in mind these 12 areas:  Conscious motivations are more prevalent, louder, easier to understand, and offered first by consumers, but the conscious in decision making is not as significant as unconscious factors.Conscious factors are usually articulate and a-ha moments, while unconscious factors are inarticulate, bumbling, confusing, and contradictory. Obtain the conscious factors first, then assume that there is more to the story than what consumers believe or provide you.  There is much more to consumer behavior than what they do in front of you, insist on, or dramatically say. These are the unconscious factors.By definition, the unconscious cannot be seen. Therefore, we must do special activities to obtain it within qualitative consumer research.Go beyond online research. As thick as online data appears, it is what consumers want to offer you in selected images, text, and daily life. It is worthwhile as a small portion of the truth about their lives. If you only do online research, even good digital ethnography, you will be caught up in masses of conscious data that require days of analysis yet bear little relationship to actual unconscious motivations. Online may be slightly better than no research but it can be misleading. Doing online only gets you mostly conscious factors and represents about one quarter of the consumer reality.Do live phenomenological research, whether this is in-person ethnographic observation or depth interviews in context or in facilities. Do multiple layers of research with the same people. Get to know the same consumers. Trust allows unconscious factors to emerge. You need to care about your consumers to understand them, and the best way to experience this relationship is to experience consumers live, in front of you, living, breathing, and doing their lives. See them in multiple contexts and come back to visit them 2-3 times. You will be surprised at the differences between visits 1 and 2.In psychological depth interviews and within ethnography, look within the observation area for signs of the shadow. The shadow represents a part of motivations but cannot be easily understood or identified via the usual means of good research. The shadow is that part of the consumer’s life, psychology, behaviors, secrets, mind-set, or reality that consumers do not, themselves, want to see and definitely do not want you to witness. Clues to the unconscious may be found in outlying elements of consumer lives – packed away in old closets, piles of clutter, off brand labels, expiration dates long gone, elements in the garbage, items in the refrigerator that bear little relationship to their avowed shopping habits.  Don’t disregard these areas for the more glamorous aspects.Especially be on the alert for consumer narratives that begin with “I never do this” and then they do it. This could be a particular TV or Netflix show in the middle of the day, clutter in the car that they clean up quickly, kids protesting that mom or dad’s comments are different than what they hear, driving in the car faster than usual, taking a different route, buying something off the list, saying something irritable to the dog, or stopping at a fast food drive-through and eating something they say they never eat. Watch for suppressed irritation, anger, or distractions.  These may hide the unconscious.Look for moments of inarticulateness. Unlike what we were taught in doing interviews, don’t automatically indulge in research prompting.  Let the inarticulateness go on, trail off, move into new areas. To begin to discover unconscious factors, the research and marketing teams must go beyond what is articulate, brilliant, and idealistic in consumer behavioral and psychological research. “I was born into life from below, and I grew up as heroes do, in hours rather than years” (p. 278).  Today’s photo is an image created by Jung on the unconscious and archetypal (p. 78). Jung, C. G. (2009). The red book: Liber novus (S. Shamdasani, Ed.). New York, NY: Norton.    ​

Meaning making and messaging: Two significant questions in concept/ad/story research​

Suppose the marketer or qualitative researcher were allowed to ask only two questions about a concept, ad, story, or communications piece?  They would be these:  1. What gut reaction to—how do you feel about—this concept, ad, story, or communications piece? Be sure emotions are accessed, with no intellectual analysis  2. What is this concept/ad/story saying, suggesting, or communicating about the product or brand? In other words, based only on this concept/ad/story or communication:          a) What are the brand or product’s physical/emotional characteristics and attributes?                    i) Keep prompting—what else?—as you explore quickly.            b) You can use a fill-in-the-blank exercise to elicit authentic response.  “This concept/ad/story is telling me that the brand/product is ___________, ____________, and _____________.  Explore the meaning of the language/words.   If you’re showing multiple concepts/ads/stories, be sure that you vary the order of sequence to eliminate positioning bias.  Also, tell consumers in advance not to compare and that you’re not interested whether they like this one better than that one.  Comparing can be done only at the very end of the interview, group, or online platform just as a nice wrap-up and emotional closure.  Comparative appeal may or may not be significant to which concept/ad/story is chosen. The first question tries to solicit a vital, active component of emotionality, whether positive or negative. If there’s an emotional “hit,” the ad/concept/story is in the running.  It mostly matters that it creates impact and intrusiveness; it doesn’t matter if the consumer likes or dislikes it. The second question is significant.  If the concept, ad, or piece provides characteristics, attributes, and elements of the brand or product that are accurate, link to the brand strategy, make sense, are fast to grasp, and seem relevant to the consumer, this is what we’re seeking.   Other questions that marketers want to know are helpful and supportive, but secondary. These include: What do you like about the concept/ad/story?  What do you dislike? Why? To whom is it communicating? How likely would you be to purchase or to watch it?  What language stands out? What’s confusing?  What if anything would you think or do as a result of seeing it?  Anything you’d want to improve? Summary:  If there’s an emotional hit and if the ad/concept/story is communicating accurately and the way you want about the brand or product, you’re on the right track.  Be sure a number of consumers including users and non-users, heavy and light frequencies, gender, age, income, education, psychographic segment, ethnicity are included in the story so you can categorize the findings by segment.   ​

Blockchain and Qualitative/Market Research​

News is proliferating about blockchain and its implications for market research.  It might be a way to address, even solve, market research issues like tracing and tracking of the multiple sources of data, identifying all the steps in data retrieval, ensuring against bad data, removing bots as respondents, and helping compliance with new regulations.  We might regain our trust in the data underneath the insights, increase transparency, allow the marketer to go direct to consumers by eliminating the research middle ground, and give consumers greater control over data, improving quality of respondents. Some say there is a strong potential to remedy, eliminate, and solve the issues of fragmentation of escalating research techniques. From the GreenBook webinar on August 23, 2018, there is strong emphasis on trust related to blockchain.  M. Andreessen is quoted: “Blockchain is the ‘trust protocol’…blockchain enables trusted transactions directly between two or more parties, authenticated by mass collaboration and powered by collective self-interests, rather than by large corporations motivated by profit.” Many inflations and paradigms in research are operating in contemporary marketing—there is an obsession for new research techniques yet increased skepticism that the data is good… desire for more control over data yet slippery commitment issues from team members.  Client companies get excited about a highly advertised methodology at the outset and then are unable to follow though in interest because of its complexities and distractions. The mind of the marketer is different from the mind of a researcher; it’s easier to take shortcuts in DIY research when you don’t really resonate to the innate research process and only want results, fast.   Researchers have the inherent need to debrief the ambiguities of research findings, reduce the data thoughtfully after we have first expanded it, re-conceptualize the purpose of a study at the midpoint, spot inaccuracies and weird, spooky, or uncanny developments that spell out a major error, winnow out flash-in-the-pan superficialities from highly tested methodologies that have earned our respect, get trained and gain experience in a method, and increase transparencies without causing the consumer to build up defenses that inculcate new emotional defense systems. In a recent seminar on blockchain and market research, certain benefits for each party in the interrelationship are touted and explored.  For instance: Suggested benefits for the consumer with blockchain:  Consumers can stay involved with the research and data results. This makes the process seem true, relevant, and engaged. But, research gathering is inherently time consuming, consumers are busy, and analysis goes through a shatteringly lengthy, boring stage or two before it gets to interpretation; the best research punctures our egos and tells insights about ourselves we don’t want to know. Good research does not always make our motivations, narratives, and opinions look good to others.  Optimum research uncovers shadow needs and wounds as well as light-filled wishes and positive discoveries. So, will consumers have the time, interest, strength of character, and emotional honesty to stay involved with the data and research process? Will they permit their darker side to become known? Suggested benefit for the researcher with blockchain:  Blockchain may allow us more trust in the data and the ability to follow the data at every point.  It’s said that instead of being nervous about using data that might be corrupt and substandard, we researchers can be bolder. We will know that those who contribute to the data have specific checks, permissions, and have gone through validating identity structures. This will help us relax more and do our work in a more streamlined, trusting fashion. Since the industry is increasingly fragmented and there is proliferation, propagation, and intensification of research techniques, many of which are technology-driven as opposed to tested by social scientists, maybe blockchain will automatically fix this overwhelming aggrandizement. It’s as if a huge picnic table of indiscriminate food brought by unknown providers is laid out on a big lawn and everyone who’s hungry can go get whatever he wants on the basis of taste buds, quality, and perceived value, without having to compromise trust.  But, wait a minute, suppose the market research questions are still in the conceptualization stage? Suppose we don’t yet know the competitive framework? Suppose we don’t know what category we’re playing in? Suppose we can’t agree on indubitable questions? Suppose we need a pretest stage or two to figure out what we’re doing? Suppose we are noticing discrepancies between multiple methodologies and their disparate findings? Suppose the research disagrees with the original opinions of top management? It is a maxim that the more thorough, rich, and multifaceted the data, the less direct, obvious, and clear are the resulting data and the greater is the need for careful analysis, skillful reduction.  It is frequently the experienced, research team who struggles, smiles, advances, despairs, exalts, goes backward, goes ahead again, and generally pulls out their own hair as they massage the data, allow for ambiguities, reversals, and paradoxes, and then come up with breakthrough results.  A quant questionnaire with thousands of undifferentiated respondents that has only three yes-no-maybe questions may be easier to analyze than a client-involved, researcher-led deep-dive qualitative, multiphased, mixed methods, longitudinal methodology about emotional motivations and behaviors of segmentation with a smaller number of algorithmic consumers over a three month period with multiple researchers in several fields, and key variations like ages, segments, and usage categories.  But which findings will be more valuable to the marketers? It depends of course, but most likely the longitudinal process. Blockchain is an open decentralized data of transactions involving value.  But value in a single consumer’s mind can change from moment to moment depending upon context, mood, income, other actors, wants, and perceived needs.  It is this shifting of value that qualitative researchers are trained to notice, become aware of, analyze, and intuit as motivational factors. Suggested benefit for the marketer with blockchain:  Theoretically with blockchain, companies, brands, and marketers may be able to reach their consumers directly.  The middleman researcher can be fired; done; that was easy. But without the researcher who is trained and innately positioned to have deep unconditional regard and empathy for the human sides of consumers, the same knowledge, depth, objectivity, subjectivity, transcendence of data, and intense level of ethics may not be guaranteed.  If the marketer can go straight to the consumer and the consumer can answer the marketer’s questions directly, will the consumer only state what he or she feels it’s appropriate to answer? Will they get bored and stop answering if the inquiry is long or irrelevant? Will they balk and give false data because being asked questions by those who serve to benefit by those answers becomes obvious quickly? Very few like to be grilled by someone or something who is obviously not objective, might abuse trust, and are transparently…opportunistic.  Even for trained researchers, it can be hard to ask totally open-ended questions if one has a vested interest in the answer. The consumer can rapidly discern when the questioner (the marketer within blockchain) is asking leading questions without the objective middleman (the researcher eliminated by blockchain). Of course, as a qualitative researcher who is a trained cultural anthropologist and depth psychologist who leads large-scale market research efforts and knows what is entailed under the surface, I and others like me don’t want to be eliminated by blockchain. We don’t even like to be called middlemen. So, I guess this post can be considered suspect or a crusade for the cause of maintaining researchers within the consumer-client research paradigm.   We may be in a totally new research ecosystem, but this ecosystem is still not a fait accompli.  No one’s fate is being sealed, yet, by blockchain. Blockchain still needs to establish identity structures and do validating research about the authentic nature of data trust so that we can better understand the benefits.  When we’re talking about the need for good data, let’s see when there’s significance to having a trained observer research team spearheaded by the qualitative researcher or anthropologist with the ability to dispassionately look at what consumers actually do, don’t do, feel, don’t feel, say, and don’t say. And, let’s figure out together where are the points of definition, devaluation, aspiration, reality, confusion, polarization, ambiguity, and potential transformation.   In some ways, the advent of blockchain makes qualitative research seem more radically necessary than ever before. What are the true advantages of no intermediaries, let’s learn who the actors are, see if trust in your specific data is increased or decreased, and begin to differentiate by the specific marketing issue and nature of the explicit inquiry whether blockchain can transform a particular inquiry for the marketer, the brand, the product, or the consumer need…for the better.   ​

Recommit to your brand loyalists​

The core loyalists and frequent users of a brand, product, or service might be ignored in favor of reaching out to new markets. Blue sky strategies seem more exciting than resonating and putting effort against loyalists who, one might assume, will stick with the brand no matter what. Yet, loyalists form the essence of your brand. Listen to their stories and repeat their narratives. Celebrate, research, acknowledge, reward, and delight them. Research new narratives about what loyalists are doing in their lives and with your brand. Fall in love with their attributes, qualities, needs, wants, and characteristics -- especially if these are different from your new markets -- and let them know that you love them for their steadfast adherence and loyalty to the brand.​

​Checklist of 20 principles for the customer journey

When creating proposals and planning for big, multistaged, multiphased, mixed method style, authentic, and longitudinal market research customer journeys that involve in-context ethnographic observations that tap into in-the-moment decision making, I have a checklist to use as you work with fields, teams, and your process. Note on the image accompanying this post: The usual, developed customer journey map after the stages of market research will look quite different than the legendary Hero’s Journey diagram shown here. But, it’s important to acknowledge that, behind every customer journey and the research journey of the observing team, there is a deeper inner and outer journey that resembles the psychological monomyth in key ways.

QSR case history:  Salad and craving​

Here’s a new success story, aka qualitative case history, that I heard last week in Toronto from our fast food client. Our research team did two large culture-specific authentic ethnographies that were live, in context, at the right timing, and in-person—along with focus groups and digital ethnography—in consumer homes and in their favorite fast food restaurants.  It was for a QSR (quick serve restaurant) brand with almost 100% visibility internationally. We conducted the work in North America.  After hours of observation—but definitely from the very beginning to the end of our ethnographies—our anthropologists discovered the subtle emotional obstacle that was also the biggest core insight.  Craving.  What we saw and experienced:  When moms and dads went through the threshold of this QSR with their kids, they entered into a known atmosphere of craving and indulgence that they loved, desired, and that then took them over.  Even and especially if these consumers represented a typology who much preferred salads, natural and lighter meals, or eating healthy organic foods (we did an algorithm to be sure this conscious, healthy-eating typology was being studied), they invariably felt attracted and pushed as if against their wills to eat whatever they wanted (probably from childhood) inside the QSR.  Then they felt guilty, later.  Basically, as soon as they passed through the brand’s portal, they found themselves compelled to indulge with fries, multilayered burgers, and flurries of desserts even though the QSR’s salads were advertised, readily available, of several wonderful varieties, and deliciously, amazingly fresh. This QSR had been using a freshness positioning for their salad advertising—over 30 years of freshness ads—from 1987 into early 2017.  It wasn’t working.  Freshness is a given and of course it’s the category standard. Then the insight consumer research manager, when reviewing more fresh salad advertising storyboards, remembered the key insight and obstacle from our ethnography.  It was craving.  She convinced the agency to flip freshness and do a new campaign based upon archetypal craving for their salads.  The agency developed a new commercial based upon craving and indulgence, with a male-female couple kidding around about who goes to this QSR to eat salads anyhow, the trickster-like male character with gestures of stealing indulgent ingredients from her salad, and beauty appearance elements of craving in the salad visuals.  The ads moved from outmoded Innocent to new Transformer archetype. Result:  Salads are flying off the shelves. The commercial is differentiating, motivating, and recalled.  Healthy-eating consumers are coming to the QSR and eating salads with delight and indulgence. They experience no guilt and return for more. The advertising campaign for salads is no longer the category stereotype, which is taken for granted by consumers, but aligned with the brand’s core insight of craving based upon real-life, true, emotional, archetypal resonance.   Conquer your craving!​

Visionary archetypes: History and contemporary applications​

The more we investigate and use archetypes, the more exciting are the archetypal variations and possibilities within categories that exist. And, the more that archetypes seem coherent, motivating, and compelling. There are corporate organizational archetypes, psychotherapeutic archetypes, and branding archetypes, and each archetypal category seems to have its own purpose, definition, and application. The way archetypes are defined and used in the contemporary perspective depends on postmodern theory, expertise, and by category.  But the earliest articulations of archetypes originate with the ancient Greek philosopher Plato who hypothesized ideal forms or Ideas that existed in the universal mind and were the standards and perfect innate forms of which material forms in the regular world were imaged. The founder of contemporary archetypal theory and creator of the field of depth psychology is C.G. Jung who, between the 1920s and early 1960s, discovered, described, and used in clinical psychiatry and voluminous psychological writing the idea of attracting motifs, images, and structures within the psyche that he saw as a deeper form of archetypes.  Jung and now classical post-Jungian psychologists (of which I am one) observe the presence of archetypes in consumers, patients, in culture, in brands and organizational structures, as well as in worldwide art, literature, film, and mythology.  The Jungian archetypes include the shadow, the mother, the child, the hero, the trickster, the anima-animus, the wise old man or archetype of meaning, rebirth, and the path or journey.   Most Jungian archetypes emerge in relationship to the path of individuation, which can be defined as a journey to make the unconscious elements conscious (often based upon compelling dreams, aspirations, fantasy, and experiences of synchronicity occurring in the outside world at the perfect moment of psychic awareness), thereby helping to seek and develop one’s inherent destiny and unique blend of individual talents.  The path of individuation is different when experienced for individuals, corporations, and cultures. Post-Jungian practitioners continue to explore and hypothesize that archetypes—powerful emotional, spiritual, conceptual structures innate within the psyche and which are present or potentialized within each person and culture throughout time and location—are located in what is called the collective unconscious.  This innateness and existence of archetypes emergent at key moments in a person or corporation’s existence from the vast unconscious worldwide collectivity is what make archetypes so powerful. To accept archetypal theory, one needs to at least acknowledge the idea of the collective unconscious as a dynamic, transpersonal psychic field underlying all consciousness and containing archetypes similar to the compelling nature of the instincts. The universality of the collective unconscious suggests that archetypes can be sourced and interact with others in the imagination and within genes, biology, and the body.  Archetypes are like invisible containers of energy that then generate archetypal images, or primal images of recurrent motifs and resonating attraction, that shape and influence persons, cultures, and organizations who are open to their affect.  Starting in the late 1980s and going strong throughout 2017 in academic management journals and corporate practices, archetypally oriented management consultants and business academicians have found archetypes to be an innovative, insightful way to understand, show, and conceptualize the core typologies underlying industry and organizational structures.  We can explore management archetypes to demonstrate the interaction between the dual concepts of interpretative scheme and structural arrangement.  Specifically, an interpretative scheme describes an organization’s conception of what it should be, what it should be doing, and how it should be evaluated, shaped by the prevailing set of the organization’s core ideas, beliefs, and values.   The interpretative scheme then intersects with the company’s structural arrangement to implement and reinforce these ideas, beliefs, and values through establishing the functionality of structures and processes that reflect its emotional, aspirational, cultural beliefs and values. Thus, a strong interrelationship between interpretative scheme and the structural arrangement mutually reinforce the corporate archetype. There are three positions of coherence in archetypal formation of a corporation: Archetypal coherence: The interpretative scheme and structural arrangement match, reflect, and reinforce each other.  When optimum, coherence is vibrant and unitary…or when it is reflecting transformation, it moves between one archetype and another archetype in a planned, creative, resonating way.Embryonic archetype coherence: Here, some elements are discordant or do not perfectly match.  Such organizations may show the effects of archetypal change that is not planned and that may differ inharmoniously between global and organizations vs. organizations at the local level within individual countries. Some shift between outside practices vs. internal modalities.Schizoid, unresolved incoherence: Some organizations show the disturbing presence of two different and incompatible archetypes at the same time, with competing internal interpretative schemes and structural arrangements.  Such issues show up as discordant external communications, a failed change process, employee stress, ambiguous reaction to new brands by consumers, decreasing share of market, or being trapped in advertising chaos between two or more competing archetypes.  These problems make the company or brand feel ineffective with little traction by consumers. The schizoid corporation/brand may require a fundamental archetypal assessment and potential transformation through an archetypal development facilitated in special corporate teams leading to revisions of advertising positionings, policies, and structures.    The use of archetypes along with research, creative team facilitation, and innovation can help a visionary corporation see and meet its branding, advertising, and new product goals successfully. ​

Ethnography for storytelling

In live and digital authentic ethnography, we get to see consumers live their real-world lives as they show and describe their deepest dreams, needs, obstacles, and successes. Upcoming posts will how we link consumer stories to brand stories through observation, teamwork, intuition, personas, and archetypes.​

Running creative “focus” groups in 2017​

What’s the best way to run what used to be called focus groups when this methodology is the beginning to a hybrid, innovative, exploratory, qualitative research effort?  Once upon a time, the original style of focus groups was used for everything…from concept reaction, to behavioral and attitudinal focus, and to get high-level needs information at a broad, diverse level. Groups were sometimes the only methodology; their findings were then quantified.  Then, focus groups fell out of favor 10+ years ago, as online bulletin boards and mobile techniques emerged. There were complaints of bandwagoning and too much subjectivity with the old focus groups.  However, groups are back in fashion again.  We’ve discovered (as have clients) that we really want to—need to—understand the social and collective elements of a product, concept, or category.  The social and collective are just one of multiple perspectives on the persona of the consumer, and the social and collective are only possible through live groups.  Of course, groups aren’t a final word on a study because we want a 360 view of the consumer through more individualized online and personalized in-situ ethnographic methodologies.  But, groups remain the best beginning to a customer journey because they open the inquiry into multiple perspectives that can finetune the online and put it into an observational dimension once we’re at the ethnography stage.  Through the creative group, we get to know the real consumer in person. When running contemporary focus groups in 2017 that start an exploratory effort, let them be as spontaneous as possible. The new name of the game is to eliminate “focus” from the methodology of focus groups.  Run them for a little longer time, like 2.5 hours, and take a break in the middle, to get consumers really relaxed and friendly with you and the others.  Don’t worry too much about bandwagoning and competing opinions.  If it gets too much, you can always take out the disturbing consumer. Use a lot of projective exercises, keep crayons and archetype cards around for new insights, go deep emotionally, and ask a few off-the-wall questions about consumers’ lives, loves, and interests outside of the topic at hand.  Ask about weight loss or dating even if we’re in the middle of a technology project.  Ask if anyone had a dream or a fantasy that they can tell us about…on anything as long as it’s not TMI.  You’ll be surprised how revitalized a group can get when the subject is really relevant.  We can always go back to the real topic once a new wave of subjective vitality has inundated the group.  We like to double moderate our creative groups when it seems right.  If two anthropologists are going to do a phase of later observational ethnographic methodologies, the same two anthropologists or psychologists will run the group together, one sitting across from the one in the moderator’s seat.  Two moderators frame the group.  There are three benefits for double moderation: The consumers get to know that there are several research leadership styles, they get to know the other anthropologist by name and personality who might do their personal ethnography in another week or moderate their portion of the online, and the other anthropologist can take over while the first moderator leaves the room, checks with the client team in the back, or gets materials ready for showing and discussion. Things stay livelier with two.  The moderators can talk with each other and ask questions out loud, like, I wonder why the group went silent when we showed this concept?  Consumers dive back in to answer two of us.  New or deeper questions that one moderator didn’t think of can be asked by the second.  Sometimes, we have a client from the backroom sit in the groups to act as a second moderating force.   In 2017, the way we moderate our groups is to actively seek looseness and environmental subjectivity, creativity, and spontaneity.  We encourage emotions, adding in projective techniques early on. We go on and off topic.  We add in moderators.  We put in a wishing module that extends to consumers’ lives and families independent of the topic.  The topic remains important, sure, but it’s not necessary to run a strictly linear group with a totally democratic style.  No, we don’t want distressing or disturbing dominators—nor wallflowers—but people are people and we want to see them interact in a highly social experiential mode that portrays the collective spirit of the concept or category. In summary:  Wish a little.  Let the group dive into the collective unconscious.  Let creative—rather than focus—groups be the entry point into a hybrid qualitative effort that quickly moves into online and ethnographic dimensions to gain a 360 perspective for our consumers.​