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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Bookshop – Brand Mythology Books

This section on Brand Mythology is set to grow. It is linked to a product called Brand Narratives that I am currently developing which sets out to draft brand plans like movie screenplays using plot and genre to develop characterisation.

 

The Hero and the Outlaw, Margaret Mark 2002 Broadway Books
Every time I asked an archetype enthusiast what they made of this book I'd get a bit of a sideways glance and a shuffle. It ought to have been a knockout punch - the psychological model developed in Awakening the Heroes within (see review below) joined with Y&R's expertise to create a definitive text on how to use archetyping in advertising. But I'm afraid it doesn't quite come off. Firstly because there is no clear definition of what a brand archetype is. Is it how humans decode brands or is it a way brands project themselves to customers. It feels a lot like the second - which is why despite the solid structure in each of the chapters introducing each archetype you get the feeling that the advertising campaigns referenced as examples of the archetype manifesting itself could be used as examples of several different ones. And it becomes an exercise in postrationalising how a campaign works - which in agencies we are very good at doing. But this undermines the point of using archetypes in the first place - it was to be more effective not as a way of grouping or classifying types of association. And the second issue I have is that advertising routinely deals in cliche - in stereotypes. So an archetyping theory needs to address the difference between the two. If I am subjected to a torrent of derivative and predictable imagery what makes the archetype authentic and not just another stereotype? Which means that it is hard to see how the book can function much more than a grab bag of ideas if you have decided to fix on a partiular archtype but it seems to me that it would become stereotypical very quickly. Another flaw in the book is that it has 2 authors and it shows. After a detailed section on the different archetypes and their manifestationsuddenly there is a leap into narratives which doesn't sit easily with the rest of the book. It feels rather like an assembly of material with no coherent theory going through it. For example categories are dominated by an archetype, a master brand can be one archetype and the brands in the portfolio can be dominated by quite different archetypes. And customers are dominated by different archetypes again. Though they may be lured by shadow (represssed) or emergent archetypes which they aren't aware of but which are very powerful. This is a parallel account of what brand and advertising strategists do. It doesn't feel any simpler or easier than what we do at present. Which is what it needs to do. The jury is still out on whether archetyping really produces more powerful and effective work.
 
 
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Awakening the Heroes within, Carol Pearson 1991 Harper Collins
This is a systematic exposition of archetype theory using 12 basic archetypes. In a subsequent book she cuts in down to 6 and I've heard mixed reviews of the book she wrote for marketers The Hero and The Outlaw - she seems to move her ground a bit. But Awakening the Heroes within is a very solid and illuminating read - because of the mapping onto the journey - and my own interest in narratives and screenplays. 4 archetypes map onto the ego and preparation for the journey, 4 onto the self and the journey itself and 4 onto the spirit and the master who returns from the journey. Which is too tidy but very useful if you are wanting a straightforward way to bring characters and narratives together. The book is all about developmental psychology so you are encouraged to do your own profile and to explore your shadow archetypes as well as your strengths. The book also covers the archetypes likely to influence you at different lifestages as well as the relationship between gender and the archetypes. Occasionally she lost me in what appeared to be psychobabble but I've really enjoyed this. I think what has made the biggest impression is how thoroughly she's thought it out but without being dull or overly dogmatic - it gives a great introduction to archetypal thinking and it works for narratives also so that's me for you. Loads of practical exercises. And a website too: www.herowithin.com
 
 
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The triumph of narrative, Robert Fulford 2001 Broadway Books
Review in Recent reads
 
 
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Beyond Prediction- the Tarot and your Spirituality, John Drane, Ross Clifford, Philip Johnson 2001 Lion
This isn't as dodgy as it sounds. The authors use tarot not for divining or prediction but for spiritual direction. So they would ask you which cards in the pack you identify with and why. All of which is very useful in thinking through the construction of brand personas around archetypes.
 
 
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The writers Journey, Christopher Vogler 1998 Michael Wiese
I'm indebted to Jon Howard of Mustoe Merriman for the tip off on this one. If you're one of that handful of planners into Archetypes then this is required reading. Vogler is Hollywood story consultant which means he cleans up diabolical film scripts. Drawing on Joseph Campbell's seminal but incomprehensible book The Hero of a Thousand Faces, Vogler comes up with a universal schematic for a plot and proceeds to illustrate it with loads of films you'll be familiar with. But what's this got to do with account planning? Simply that if you are developing brand characters with no grasp of the narrative which brings the character to life then you've only done half your job. There is a section in the bookshop devoted to Brand Mythology and this is going straight in.
 
 
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The uses of Enchantment, Bruno Bettelheim 1991 Penguin
I found this a fascinating read particularly when I got involved in the storytelling movement. It is all about the way in which children use fairy stories to mythologise the world - quite useful for people who get paid to mythologise a little themselves.
 
 
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The Dream Society, Rolf Jensen 1999 McGraw Hill
I wanted this to be a lot better than it was. The thesis is that the information society will be succeeded by the dream society where brands become storytellers who generate social values and myths by which we will all live. Great theory. Picking out what these amazing stories would be turned into a lot of waffle. Which was a shame.
 
 
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How to write a movie in 21 days, Vicki King 1993 Harper Collins
This is a real how to book but is very accessible for that reason. Assume 1 page of script takes a minute to play, assemble 120 pages then write pages 1, 15 and so on. A top down approach giving you lots of practical ideas for how to write, overcoming writers block. What on earth has this to do with brand mythology? Well in films the only way to bring a character to life is to give them a decent narrative. It works for Hollywood and I don't see why brand communications should be different particularly as brands can no long expect to reach a mass audience using television. So multimedia campaigns have to create narrative elements to reveal the character. This is a bit of a formula book as you might expect. But that can be a help when you are finding your feet. As I am in this area. Give me a call and we'll talk about it!!
 
 
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Story, Robert McKee 1998 Methuen
I started this book last summer (and I'm back on it and I'm going to finish it). Because I would like to explore the notion that brands can better be explored as narratives than as personalities (c.f. John Grant in New Marketing Manifesto in the Brands section on brands as editors) And McKee is an authority on screenplay writing. So I look forward to handing a rough draft of a screenplay to the creative team and pitching the idea.... McKee has a website at http://www.mcckeestory.com/
 
 
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