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FINDING TRUE NORTH

nization’s connection to its target audiences—the women, children, and families who benefit from its mission, along with its current and potential donors and volunteers. The Board wanted to explore perceptions of the March of Dimes and to learn how it might present its mission more powerfully. The major result of the initial work was a change in positioning— from “preventing birth defects,” which led people to imagine an already handicapped child in a wheelchair, to “saving babies, together,” which led people to think about innocent infants and the possibility of squandering human potential. While both concepts were emotionally potent, the latter was far truer to the present work of today’s March of Dimes. While the March of Dimes advocates for services for disabled children and their families, the bulk of the organization’s fund-raising and research is devoted to preventing these problems in the first place. But all marketers know that prevention is a difficult sale, especially when what is being prevented is as unsettling a prospect as birth defects. The fear of bearing an “imperfect” child is a primal one—since time immemorial, mothers of newborns count fingers and toes, and myth and legend are filled with terrifying images of aberrant children. But could this primal or archetypal fear be turned to a positive emotion—one strong enough to trigger a preventative call to action? Susan Royer, then Planning Director at the Lord Group, the advertising agency for the March of Dimes, thought it might be possible. She had seen the work Margaret had done with archetypes and archetypal stories, and she thought it might be powerfully applicable to the cause of the March of Dimes. The day it was first presented to the senior managers of the organization was a pivotal one. Margaret took them through the presentation of the concept of applying archetypes to brand identity, followed by brief descriptions of the archetypes and of archetypal story patterns. Royer followed with a short piece recommending her initial thoughts as to where the archetypes might guide them. What happened from there was an incredible example of how this type of thinking can prompt organizations to recognize, and act upon, their deepest cultural values. Not a minute after the presentation, Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes, proclaimed to the group that the think-

Profile for Lewis Lafontaine

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

Mack, Margaret - Hero and Outlaw Archetype  

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