Should dominant archetype and persona gap across stakeholders worry you?

18 Jan,2023




By Sanjeev Kotnala


Sanjeev KotnalaArchetype, Brand Persona, Brand Association and masks are not new concepts. In 1919, more than a century back, Carl Jung suggested that “There are forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constituents of myths and at the same time, as individual products of unconscious and that these [archetypes] are imprinted and hardwired into our psyches.” He took this understanding further to create brand archetypes aligning with predominant Customer profiles. Carl Jung identified 12 archetypes: Innocent, Everyman, Hero, Outlaw, Explorer, Creator, Ruler, Magician, Lover, Caregiver, Jester, and Sage.

Now consider the possibility that the consumers and people at different positions hardwired with a particular archetype may be putting up a mask that may or may not be in sync with their dominant archetype, as it may help them with better relationships, image perception, enhanced efficiency and effectiveness.

The truth is that people do wear a mask all the time and life’s varied roles and responsibilities require them to act differently and wear different masks. Sometimes, people use multiple masks to interact with various stakeholders and audiences, and such a situation creates confusion because of the difference between expectation and experience.

Moreover, masks are not true to the identity and may slip, compromising all the efforts.

Masking is tricky but is a done thing.



The solution is to unmask and synchronise the archetype and brand persona for the desired consistency in reaction and impression. After all, what counts more than reality is perception.

Exploratory work suggests that it is natural for the demonstrated archetype (Persona), real archetype and perceptual archetype to differ. The person may retain dominant traits of the real archetype, as they are hardwired. However, variations and tweaks, subclasses and subgroups of archetype and persona get reflected in their behaviour, actions and reactions, thus altering and influencing the resultant image and perception.



In a business environment, various stakeholders and audiences may perceive the archetype differently based on their experiences. To simplify the situation, we look at the dominant archetype and the perception created across five prime audiences; senior management, peer group, juniors, self-perception and perception outside the organisation.

The person is more at ease with self and surrounding when there is an alignment across all the above perceived personal brand persona (archetype). And there is chaos, turmoil, and frustration if they conflict. There could be a problem of mismatch between self-perception and stakeholders’ perceptions.

Many brand marketing consultants have focussed on streamlining the brand archetype and the company desired Vs demonstrated archetype through culture intervention and programmes. However, they have understandably missed looking at the archetype (persona) alignment of the prime assets of an organisation – the workforce.



I have worked with a few organisations open to exploring and addressing this subject.

We used various net-based questionnaires to identify the personal archetype and persona. We used animal and celebrity association for perceptual archetype identification and cross-checked using net-based tools.

For stakeholders outside the company, like retailers, business associates, and the workforce at the plant, we again used associations to understand the persona perception as it seemed more focused and easy to administer with a lower margin of error.

We used a series of animal and celebrity pictures with important pre-identified characteristics to ensure everyone was on the same page. This characteristics list grew with time as audiences helped expand it with more generic interpretations.

In some places, in-depth discussions were done for a better perception and understanding. We observed people were more open and better placed when the references were in their native language. Moreover, language allowed for highlighting finer nuances. The respondent would differentiate between a Shahukar and a banker, an adventurous sportsperson Vs a hobbyist, a Lieutenant vs King Vs subedar Vs Wazir, A government servant Vs a Government department head and a bureaucrat and, off-course, between a python and a cobra. We dropped political figures from the list as they had a highly individualistic and confusing interpretation.



The findings fell in line and expectations.

In one such case, the CFO was seen as a Sherlock Holmes by the franchise, a Sahukar by the retailers and a dictator by the sales force. And the CFO saw himself as a Sage and a comedian in sync with the company brand archetype. Even the MD and the directors saw him differently.

In fact, in senior management, there was a considerable difference between self-perception and archetype discovery in how they saw each other.  And we tested these during the recruitment process to hire the right fit through net based tools. However the perceptual images reflected by the interview panel normally had wide variations.

In another case the Sales head was seen as a true leader by the juniors, an opportunist by the peer and a wasted resource by the management.



Multiple levels of counselling was done. The challenging phase was sharing the findings with the individual and explaining to them valid perceptions, and more difficult was determining the possible tweaks and corrections and monitoring them.



The final impact of such an exercise and counselling is yet to be seen. The management believes we are moving in the right direction to streamline archetype perceptions with the company/brand desired archetype. However, it has been interesting, exciting and somewhat of an eye-opener. One looks forward to working with another open organisation to understand and explore it further.


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