Alignment between your archetype and your life science or biotech organization’s services, products, culture and communications.

In stories and myths, archetypes represent common patterns of action, thought and language. All characters that exhibit the attributes of a particular archetype share these common actions, thoughts and language. For example, the pattern of the Lover includes several attributes, such as belonging to a group, sacrifice of the self for a greater good, faithfulness, vitality, potential jealousy, etc. A character expressing the Lover can express this through their actions, thoughts and/or language.

These attributes combine into a pattern. Based on extensive exposure to these patterns in popular culture, the story’s reader quickly recognizes the pattern of actions, thoughts and language of the Lover—and it is this recognition that allows the reader to classify the character as a member of the Lover archetype, and then expect the character to exhibit actions, thoughts and language of the Lover in the future.

If you want to know more about the use of archetypes in marketing, please refer to Vol. 6, No. 2. When archetypes are used in marketing, what do audiences examine to understand your organization’s archetypal pattern? In other words, what is analogous to a character’s actions, thoughts, and language in a business setting?

For organizations, there are three organizational “behaviors” that internal and external audiences use to recognize your archetype: the products or services you provide, your culture, and your tone of voice/personality. The following table draws out the complete analogy:

Characters’ “behaviors” in storiesOrganizational “behaviors” in business Why these are similar
ActionsProducts and servicesThese can be sensed by “looking from afar.” They are judged by their “performance.”
Thoughts and beliefsOrganizational cultureThese can only be sensed from “up close;” they require intimate.
Language and tone of voiceCommunication and tone of voiceThis can be sensed by listening.

Figure 1. There are three “behaviors” that communicate archetypal patterns. In stories and myths, these are a character’s actions, thoughts and language. In organizations, these correspond to products and services, culture, and communication.

I’ll examine each of these organizational “behaviors,” particularly as they apply to the life sciences. You’ll see that alignment between an archetype and different “behaviors” provides different benefits and different capabilities for influencing your audiences’ actions, beliefs and behaviors, and therefore different ways of driving sales.

I’ll go into greater detail below, but for clarity, I’ll summarize the main points here:

Alignment between your archetype and your products and services creates resonance with your users and your external audiences, but this alignment is the least differentiating of all, because all your competitors have products and services that resonate to the same degree.

Alignment between your archetype and your culture is the most powerful way to align your internal audiences (your employees), and ultimately, this affects your external communications.

Alignment between your archetype and your external and internal communications is the most powerful way to create engagement with your external audiences and ultimately generate sales.

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Products and services: Your life science or biotech marketing archetype can align with the products and services you provide.

Johnson and Johnson’s BandAid brand is an example of a Caregiver archetype. In this case, the use of BandAid products can comfort and heal the user. Wrangler is an Explorer brand; wearing a pair of Wrangler jeans can help wearers explore the outdoors.

An alignment between your archetype and the product or service you sell sounds ideal, because the very nature of the life science and biotech product or service being sold gives clues to the audience about the nature of the archetype. But there’s more to it than that.

Disadvantages of having your life science and biotech marketing archetype align with the products and services you provide.

While alignment between your archetype and the product or service sounds ideal, it does not provide a significant advantage in the long run, because each and every competitor in a particular sector could also claim this archetype. That is, every maker of bandages has products that relate to the Caretaker archetype. Every maker of perfume has products that relate to the Lover archetype. Every CRO has services that relate to the Guide archetype.

Of course, not all products and services and not all sectors have a natural archetype. What would be the sector archetype for laboratory glassware, such as pipettes and petri dishes? How about flow cytometers?

One might say that the Scientist would be the natural archetype for these products, and indeed the Scientist could be the archetype for every product and every sector related to scientific exploration and discovery. However the Scientist is really the archetype of the audience, not of these products.

One of the prime functions of archetypes in marketing is differentiation, so when it is applied this broadly the Scientist archetype becomes basically worthless. When considering many scientific products and services, it is safe to say that there is no natural archetype beyond a non-differentiating one, the Scientist (that really describes the audience, not the products).

The truth is that not all products and services have a clear, obvious sector archetype—let alone one that can be seen as distinct from those offered by competitors. But archetypes can still be valuable in creating differentiation. To take an example from consumer products, consider soft drinks. There is no obvious archetype for this sector. But because differentiation is so important, Coke, through its marketing, has chosen the Innocent as its archetype. Of course, Coke does not list “innocence” as an ingredient, nor are you suddenly more innocent after consuming a Coke, but the Innocent is a powerful and differentiating archetype for this brand, one which exists in a sector that has no obvious archetype.

Selecting an archetype that aligns with a life science and biotech sector’s general products and services is a natural choice, but a limiting one. It lacks the differentiating power of a more unique archetype. And therefore, selecting this type of archetype is not very powerful in driving sales.

Culture: Your life science or biotech marketing archetype can align with your organizational culture.

Your archetype can align with your corporate culture. In the case of a highly disciplined clinical research organization (CRO) that we worked with, the culture emphasized teamwork, personal responsibility, extensive training and an unwavering focus on achieving end results. This culture clearly aligned with several archetypes, including the Warrior: warriors work in teams, take personal responsibility, have extensive training and are focused on achieving end results. This archetype was a natural fit for this organization, even though the services provided (gathering and verifying data from patient–clinician interactions) were not warrior-like in any way.

When we introduced the Warrior archetype to this team, the first reaction was very clear and almost nonchalant: “Oh, yeah, of course that’s who we are.” Upon reflection, however, the reaction was more profound, “You know, this really is who we are.” Once the archetype had been both identified and articulated, we saw significant alignment around its implementation.

Advantages of having your marketing archetype align with the culture of your life science or biotech organization.

One of the advantages of selecting an archetype that naturally aligns with your existing culture is that it will be easier to train your life science or biotech team on the meaning and implications of your archetype.

When your culture and your archetype align, you can reap many benefits. At the top of the list: Your tone of voice will be more natural, since your communication will originate from employees that are steeped in your culture. And speaking in a natural voice greatly enhances consistency of expression. But there are other benefits: it is easier to train employees on cultural issues, since archetypes enable quicker understanding of patterns of action, thought and communication. And companies that embrace archetypes enable greater alignment among internal teams. So, all other factors being equal, it is highly valuable to select an archetype that aligns with your corporate culture.

One disadvantage of choosing an archetype that aligns with your existing culture can occur when a company considers only the most superficial aspects of corporate culture and ends up with an all-too-common default archetype. For example, many scientifically based companies naturally have a Scientist culture, but I’ve written here and elsewhere why the choice of an Innovator or Scientist archetype should generally be avoided.

Communications: Your life science or biotech marketing archetype can align with the tone of your communications.

One of the earliest uses of archetypes in marketing was to define the tone of voice, or personality, for external communications, particularly for consumer products without much differentiation—think Coke and Pepsi.

Archetypes in marketing are particularly powerful in communicating personality with audience members because audiences “unpack” the archetype, and fill in any missing part of the pattern. This means that archetypes are very “efficient;” they can communicate a lot without requiring a lot of bandwidth on our part, or attention span on the part of the audience.

Of course, this unpacking happens whether the pattern of behavior is most strongly expressed by the products/services, the culture or the communications of a life science or biotech organization. But as I’ve discussed, the archetype related to products and services is often non-differentiating, and the archetype related to culture typically only directly affects internal audiences, not external ones. So the efficiency of archetypes in marketing is seen most clearly, and most often, when considering this “behavior” of an organization: communication.

Due to the rise of social media, more life science or biotech employees are now able to communicate directly with the public, the press, prospects and customers than ever before. For the same reason, those audiences are able to talk amongst themselves more easily than ever before. As a result, marketing departments no longer have complete control over the messages and content spread by your organization, or the tone of voice used to communicate these messages. Given the diversity of available channels through which life science or biotech prospects can learn about you, it is now possible for both the content and the tone of voice to vary widely, because they come from a variety of sources.

Nothing will confuse prospects and customers more quickly than multiple voices providing varied messages, each projecting a different company personality and conveying different content. A prospect that is confused about your organization’s personality or messages is less likely to trust and to engage than one that has a clear understanding.

In response to this potential for confusion, and in order to maintain as much consistency as possible, the marketing department in life science or biotech marketing and sales organizations must now take responsibility for ensuring that there is organization-wide alignment throughout message, personality and tone of voice.

Advantages of having your marketing archetype align with the tone of voice of your life science or biotech organization.

The advantage of having your marketing archetype align with the tone of voice of your organization should be clear. This is one of the best ways to engage external audiences. In fact, using archetypes to guide communication was one of their original uses in marketing. The importance of the differentiation and the resonance with audience’ expectations cannot be overstated.

Aligning your archetype

As we’ve seen, archetypes can align with your:

  • Products and/or services
  • Culture
  • Communication

The ideal situation is achieved when your archetype aligns with all three. However, each of the three performs different functions within your organizational structure.

Alignment with your products and services creates resonance with your users and your external audiences, but this alignment is the least differentiating of all, because all your competitors have products and services that resonate to the same degree.

Alignment with your culture is the most powerful way to align your internal audiences (your employees), and ultimately, this will help affect your external communications.

Alignment with your external and internal communications is the most powerful way to create engagement with your external audiences and ultimately generate sales.

At Forma, we examine our clients’ situations through several lenses, including their products and services, culture and tone of voice. All of these are important in determining which archetype is currently being expressed. (For many life science organizations, this expression is only happening by accident, or default.) This, of course, can help us determine the best way to transition to a powerful archetype that can be deployed in the future.

The importance of training in aligning your life science or biotech organizational behavior with your archetype

Alignment of your internal teams and your communication around your archetype won’t happen without deliberate action. This requires training. The goals of this training should be to develop competency across all the various components of learning domains outlined by Benjamin Bloom (a pioneer in the theory of learning): knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. In other words, your employees should know what archetype you’ve selected, understand what it means for the organization, be able to apply the archetype to their own job, analyze the situations in which archetypes are employed, synthesize their own expression of the archetype and evaluate the end results. With this training, your archetype will become embedded within your organization.

Archetypes in marketing can address all these components and drive alignment across teams, departments and entire organizations. But training is crucial to make this alignment happen. Without training, your archetype will be like most corporate mission statements: everyone pays lip service to it but no one internalizes it or “lives it,” and after a little while it is seen as irrelevant to the day-to-day activities of employees.

With training, employees in your life science or biotech marketing and sales organization will have a firm grounding in understanding what the organization stands for. If the training covers content and tone-of-voice (as it should), your employees will have a set of tools to use when talking about the organization.

Strong alignment or weak alignment of your life science archetype

In stories, while a character’s actions, thoughts or language can align very strongly with a particular archetype, the alignment does not have to be that strong. For example, a hero who was mute could have actions that aligned strongly with the Hero archetype, while the language and tone of voice would have no possibility of alignment, because the hero couldn’t speak.

This is true in life science and biotech marketing as well; your organization’s archetype can be more strongly or less strongly aligned with one or more of the three “behaviors” we’ve been discussing: products/services, culture or communication. Which raises an important question.

Alignment with an archetype: is it possible to have alignment that is too strong?

The answer to that question depends on what you choose to align your archetype with. (Also, it is important to point out that archetypes work best when they are expressed strongly enough to make a difference, but not strongly enough to be consciously noticed. You don’t want to broadcast your chosen archetype so strongly that it becomes the focus of your messages. After all, archetypes affect the way you say things first, and should only affect what you say second.)

Alignment between your archetype and your products and services. Strong alignment between your archetypes and your products and services is fine, but typically won’t give you much advantage, because your competitors’ products and services will have the same alignment. And once you choose an archetype, this alignment can only be increased by the development or implementation of new products or services specific to that archetype. This type of development is rare.

Alignment between your archetype and your culture. Strong alignment between your archetype and your culture is something to be encouraged, because of the internal alignment this brings to teams. Training can increase this alignment.

Alignment between your archetype and your communications. This alignment is the primary reason that many companies choose an archetype. It is something to be encouraged, and again, training will help. Just remember to be careful. Archetypes work best when they operate just below the surface of recognizability. Otherwise they can be too heavy handed.

Conclusion

Archetypes in marketing can align with three types of organizational behaviors: your communications, your culture, and your products and services.

Alignment between your communications and your archetype is useful for communication with internal teams and external audiences. This alignment is very useful for differentiation and thus can help drive sales.

Alignment between your culture and your archetype is useful for aligning your internal team. This is very useful for influencing expectations and behaviors.

Alignment between your products and services and your archetype is only marginally useful, because your competitors’ products and services will also tend to align with this archetype, decreasing the differentiation this provides to you.

When implementing archetypes in marketing, focus on alignment with your communications first, with your culture second and with your products and services third.