Forma-Twitter-Archetype-Banner-orange BIGTwo questions invariably come up when talking with life science marketers about archetypes. The first is: what are archetypes? I’ve answered that question in many places—here’s a good introduction: Gaining differentiation (and pricing power) through the use of archetypes in life science marketing.

The second question is: can I have multiple archetypes, one for each of our divisions? I can see why this question comes up so often. The allure of archetypes is based on specific benefits, including the differentiation an archetype delivers and the resonance it has with audiences. The benefits are so strong that those responsible for marketing see clear value. “But if one archetype is good, are multiple archetypes better? Can I choose multiple archetypes, one for each division?”

The short answer is to this question is: yes—you can choose multiple archetypes. But most typical life science organizations should not. There are many issues with trying to use multiple archetypes. To outline a few of them, let me pose two additional questions, one focused on whether you could and one focused on whether you should choose different archetypes.

To address the question of whether you could have different archetypes, you must determine how separate the audiences are for these different divisions. Are they completely separate, or does the same individual buy or use products or services from more than one division? If your audiences are separate, you could use distinct archetypes for different divisions. If your audiences are not separate then in most situations you should not use different archetypes for different divisions. Why? You must avoid the possibility of confusion. One of the main benefits of using archetypes is the differentiation you create in the minds of your audiences, both internal and external. This differentiation will be destroyed (or at the very least diluted) if your messages and tone of voice get all muddled up, and this will destroy the benefits of choosing an archetype in the first place.

To address the question of whether you should use different archetypes, you must determine how capable the marketing resources are for these different divisions. Are they overworked and understaffed, or are they capable of managing completely different messages and personalities for multiple product lines and brands without creating any confusion, either internally or externally.

If they are extremely capable (and if your audiences don’t overlap), then you can go ahead and pick different archetypes. Let me qualify this point by saying that some marketing departments inside life science, drug development or biotech organizations are underfunded and understaffed. This is not true in all cases, of course—I’m generalizing. But this is certainly true if you compare our sector against the sectors related to consumer packaged goods, where marketing resources often have budgets an order of magnitude higher than in the life sciences.

The situations in which I’d advise choosing multiple archetypes are rare. In many (or maybe in most?) situations, either the audiences are not distinct, or the internal marketing resources are insufficient to keep the results clearly separated. So I urge caution. Archetypes can be a powerful tool for differentiation, but you must have internal marketing resources and audiences that are differentiated enough to make this choice a wise one.