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The First System—Ever—for the Management of Meaning


night. What they need is an enduring and reliable compass—a fixed place that illuminates both where they are and where they must go. For marketers, the theory of archetypes can act as this compass. We have written The Hero and the Outlaw to communicate the first system—ever—for the management of meaning. And like many sound ideas, it borrows from very ancient and eternal ones. Imprints, hardwired into our psyches, influence the characters we love in art, literature, the great religions of the world, and contemporary films. Plato called these imprints “elemental forms” and saw them as the idea structures that formed a template for material reality. Psychiatrist C. G. Jung called them “archetypes.” In the marketing world, we have had no comparable concept or vocabulary. Yet brands are, in truth, among the most vibrant contemporary expressions of these deep and abiding patterns. Whether through conscious intent or fortunate accident, brands—be they candidates, superstars, products, or companies—achieve deep and enduring differentiation and relevance by embodying timeless archetypal meaning. In fact, the most successful brands always have done so. This phenomenon is not about “borrowing” meaning in an ephemeral advertising campaign, but rather becoming a consistent and enduring expression of meaning—essentially becoming a brand icon. Powerhouse products have done so: Nike, Coke, Ralph Lauren, Marlboro, Disney, and Ivory, to name a few. So have films—Star Wars, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, and Gone with the Wind—and personalities—Lady Di, Jackie O, Joe DiMaggio, and John Wayne. Brands that have achieved this status, accidentally or as a result of fabulously gifted instinct, have captured and held the imagination of the public. And, if they are wise, their marketers have stayed the course simply because what their brands have come to represent resonates with the public so well and so consistently. But reliance on genius goes only so far and lasts only so long. Sooner or later, brands suffer from the fact that there has been no science related to the development and management of meaning. When business as usual takes over, there is no compass to guide the inevitable choices or decision points that determine a brand’s fate: How to keep pace with the times without losing the brand’s essence? How to survive fierce competitive assaults? How to appeal to multiple segments—perhaps numerous cultures—without violating the

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype