Polar bears relaxing on the ice around a campfire, gazing at the stars and drinking a…

Anyone who’s watched TV at all over the last decade or so, knows they’re drinking a Coke.

It’s easy to see and understand archetypes when looking at big consumer brands like Coke and Pepsi — they have the budgets to bombard us with messages. As the holiday season approaches, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll see the happy polar bears drinking their Cokes and gazing at a starry sky full of innocence and wonder (Coke’s archetype is the Innocent). Which means we’ll also be seeing some version of Jester Pepsi making fun of Coke.

Coke and Pepsi make great case studies for marketing since the only real difference between the two is what’s on the outside of the can and so much of that difference is built on strong, consistently implemented archetypes. In life science marketing, some might think, well if we had their advertising/marketing budget, we could implement an archetype really well, too. While big budgets can certainly help, it’s more complicated than just throwing money at things.

For Coke and Pepsi, it is all about what’s outside the can and all over the airwaves (and intertoobs). Since they have very few public facing people — they’re completely product driven — how we come to know them is through how they present the product. We consume their messages as much as (maybe more than) we consume their product. What goes on behind the scenes is less well-known and less important really to our understanding of their brands.

Consistency in tone and message leads to authenticity for these large consumer brands. Our experience and understanding of these brands happens in the media where large consumer brands have the budgets to engage us there on multiple fronts.

In life science marketing, especially B2B, we typically don’t have the budget to broadcast an image in the hopes of planting a picture in our audience’s minds. We have to work harder, and not just because we’re working with smaller budgets. We’re selling complex products and services, which often require sophisticated messages (i.e. not something easily encapsulated in a sound bite or a headline), and very often are the kind of purchases that require a line item in an annual budget. Adding to the complexity puzzle in life science marketing are the regulating agencies which water down our potential to make claims, ultimately watering down our ability to be different.

Unlike Coke and Pepsi who are more concerned with what happens on the outside, one of the strongest reasons life science companies should be using archetypes is because of what an archetype can do INSIDE a company. A well chosen archetype galvanizes internal culture and empowers employees to “live” the brand (they already are your brand so unless your using something like a well-implemented archetype, your brand is probably a mess). More traditional marketing, based on mission statements, vision statements and messaging, while important, can’t compete with the power of an archetype. The former is based on statements or proclamations — as a consumer or potential customer, I don’t really care what you “proclaim.” Internally, most employees don’t really care about their company’s proclamations either (especially if the company is not practicing what it’s preaching) (see reason #2).

While choosing an archetype begins with a simple statement such as “we’re the Guardian,” this selection is not a public act and the deliverable is not wrapped up in a statement or proclamation (in fact, your archetype is internal knowledge, not for public consumption – don’t send out a press release about it). And the choice itself is only the beginning, now you’ve got to commit, train and implement.

Making this commitment to use an archetype is well worth the investment, for while the mission statement aims to TELL your audiences what you stand for (and your audiences include your coworkers and employees), a properly implemented archetype SHOWS who you are. A properly implemented archetype invites employees to participate — this is not trivial. By internalizing the specific characteristics of who the “Guardian” is — which requires commitment through training and consistent delivery over time — employees learn to incorporate Guardian language and characteristics into their own stories and interactions, ultimately becoming flag-bearers of the brand. Again, they already are your flag-bearers — unfortunately, in most cases they don’t know how to authentically articulate what the flag actually represents.

Showing takes time and commitment, but showing is much more powerful than telling. And the act of showing ingrains the archetype into the organization.