Archetype versus Stereotype

I have always been interested in the progression of things. How they evolve, what conditions influence the progression of change and especially when they get diverted or diffused. Studying the progression of anything can teach you about the environment surrounding each phase of the progression for it is these external influences that guide the change. Understanding these changes is an essential component to predicting other progressions or understanding why they get diverted.

One of the best examples of the progression concept was provided by B. Joseph Pine II & James H. Gilmore’s in their book “The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage.” In their classic example of the economy, the progression demonstrates the progression from an era of commodities to that of experiences and the emerging economy of transformation. With each evolution in the economy, the external influences has been ‘Value,’ as perceived by the consumer. The other external influences is also ‘Competitive Advantage’ by the provider.

Take a look at the diagram below to see the phases of “The Progression of Economic Value.”

progression_economic_value

You can learn more about this topic here at their website: StrategicHorizons.com or by reading their second edition of “The Experience Economy.”

This was not my first introduction to the progression concept back in 2005, but it was the first time I began understanding on a deeper level how external influences can have rippling effects as well as how to identify key influencers. I also discovered how quickly others could distort an idea of progression theme either because of the lack of understanding all the elements, marketing need to look like experts with a signature program or simply sourced bad information and propagated unknowingly as fact.

One example I want to show that has become diverted from its progression path because of marketing or other misconception influences is the progression of consumer marketing research. For those who may not be familiar with the topic, it is the type of research companies use to study consumer markets. Most research programs focus on statistical data of the numbers of potential consumers in a given area. Like other progressions where the human factor influences, the progression takes on an interesting dynamic except at the point of divergence to something off track.

PoMR

As the illustration shows, focus around filtration of statistical data has been the influencers of the progression of market research. Research moved from the geographical where the focus was on the overall number of consumers in a given area or region. This was the most basic of data clusters. No particular values or buying tendencies are identified, purely raw numbers of bodies. This is known as population density modeling and only provides the most rudimentary of information.

Then data began using filters to “characterize” population numbers into small cluster groups. These groups could be age, income, gender, etc. or could be a combination of these factors. This method became known as Demographic Research. It offered a better look at compatibility, yet did not guarantee true alignment with the provider/consumer relationship. Demographic data research is still used even today by many businesses and market researchers.

An outside influence to data is the introduction of trends or psychology of “types” of buyers. This progression of research used much of the same data filters as demographic research as well as introduced similarities of buyers financially, culturally and socially. This type of research became known as Psychographic Research. Unlike its predecessors, psychographic profiling added in buyer habits and trends to develop market segments or types of consumers. This method opened a whole new door to approaching a market and how to communicate, not just to the masses, but to refine segments. This method became more customized to a type of consumer and allowed providers a better targeting process. Soon many large providers began utilizing this method to gain market share or competitive advantage over similar providers.

It is about here in the progression, when something changes research. Another, but older influence would dramatically change research. In 1919, a psychologist by the name of Carl Jung would develop a psychological profile method called Jungian archetypes and introduce the term “persona” to the world. This idea of psychological archetypes and personas would not begin to blend into market research until the mid 1990’s by Angus Jenkinson and OgilvyOne Agency.

Archetype and Persona market research shifted the focus from people to the needs of a person. Similar to Pine and Gilmore’s model of the progression of economic value where the driver is the shift from mass markets to markets of one, personas focus on the needs of individual “type” consumers. Behavior and motivation become the criteria for this market research process. In 2006, Pruitt and Adlin issued the benefits of using personas in product development via the publication; ‘The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design.’

The shift from statistical data filters evolves from the external condition to the internal psychological need of consumers. Unfortunately, a divergence happens with this thinking. Personally I feel it may be due to the time and education required to support this type of research that an adaptation of this concept arose creating confusion within the industry and with users.

Simplicity overshadowed the progression. Researchers may have needed to express findings as more statistical data to provide information in a way typical of earlier methods by putting a face to the data or clients did not understand the complete persona process for product development, but an alteration of the process emerged in research and off tracked the meaning of “Persona” research.

The industry took a split in its thinking from the Jungian Persona concept where it was not about a person, rather a behavior and need, rather it became about identify a person as a type of user. The method is diverting from the idea of why a person does something to what a group of people did. As Simon Sinek would communicate, this is a separation between ‘Why’ and ‘What’ of the focus of information.

So to illustrate this a bit better I took the pen to paper and visualized what the progression method of Persona/Archetype research is and what marketing and research firms are driving it to become by commoditizing the data and the process.

image

As you may noticed, the difference is much about the growing development of stereotypes as opposed to archetypes and personas that Carl Jung originally developed and Angus Jenkinson and OgilvyOne Agency refined. The methods, though share some similar terminology and history, are definitely focusing on two very different sources of information. This create confusion for myself as well as many others seeking to know more about this new progression of research.

So did I write this? The purpose was that this began as a personal research that became a journey of clarity. If you are looking to better understand your consumers and wish to create better design in your offerings, then take care to understand what you are looking for and how it is being processed. The progression of market research shifts from the collective people to that of the individual need. Anything less, in my opinion, is simple a dumbing down of the potential of a process to rationalize or commoditized its offering to become a market research of stereotypes and not archetypes.

Be in the ‘Know’ of what you are engaging in and how it creates opportunities or hurdles in your progression of value to your consumer. The best gold miners rarely minded where others stood.

Good luck and thank you for taking the time to read the ramblings of an IdeaFreak. May your tomorrows be successful and filled with wonderful opportunities!

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