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The First System—Ever—for the Management of Meaning


systems for marketing goods, but no system for managing what had become a brand’s most leverageable asset. Why not? Partly because the need to manage meaning was a relatively new phenomenon. If you were the only soft drink in town (as you might be in, say, Hangzhou, China), you could market your product on the basis of its features and benefits. And if you were the only dry cleaner in the neighborhood, you could market your store on the merits of its convenience, environmentally sound packaging, and effective cleaning. However, in increasingly crowded and highly competitive categories, the cases in which brand differentiation could be based on discernible product differences became rare or nonexistent. And even if a corporation was successful in creating a legitimate product-based point of difference, it was quickly imitated and duplicated by competitors. As early as 1983, Paul Hawken identified a profound change in the relative importance of product “mass” versus product “meaning” that required a corresponding shift in our business model. Soon after, Wall Street made a comparable discovery, whereupon whole corporations were acquired simply to obtain their powerhouse brands— even though other brands offered virtually identical products. Something new was happening. Hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent to purchase certain brands because they possessed a trait or property that was not fully understood and that caught the purchasers totally off guard. The truth was that these brands had become phenomenally valuable not only because of their innovative features or benefits, but also because these properties had been translated into powerful meanings. They were worth millions of dollars because they had gained a kind of meaning that was universal, larger than life, iconic. Whether the new managers understood it consciously or not, they had become the stewards of archetypal brands. The meanings these brands hold are like primal assets that must be managed as carefully as financial investments. And most companies have not been prepared to do so, because, quite simply, no system was available to guide them. Levi’s, once a strong and clear Explorer brand, drifted from Outlaw to Hero, back to Explorer, then to Regular Guy or Gal, then to

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype