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Why Pharma Marketing is Boring? Archetypes!

Pharmaceutical brands are not loved. Products of the pharma industry are saving lives every day (not to mention removing headaches of the day after). Still, an average John Doe is not grateful to the manufacturer. To be honest even if he knows the brand, he rarely likes it. Pharma is rarely connected to wellness or innovation, almost always to disease and its cost.

Why is that? The answer may be in something that pharma marketing is lacking. At K-Message we believe, that pharma brands are not understood by people. They are not understood, because they do not refer to archetypes.

12 Primary character archetypes

12 Primary character archetypes

English: Carl Gustav Jung, full-length portrai...

English: Carl Gustav Jung, full-length portrait, standing in front of building in Burghölzi, Zurich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist,  human is not born with a clean mind or tabula rasa. Instead, we all universally share some embedded events, figures and motifs that are easily understood by anyone and that trigger unconscious reaction, similar to most if not all the people. Those universal patterns of mind are called archetypes.

Jung believed that archetypes are truly universal and not related to the culture, education or any other circumstances. While it all may sound bit odd and bit “psychic” to pharma marketers who tend to look for substantial evidence, there are some scientific research that look after archetypes in human genome (Stevens, Archetype: A natural history of Self) and locating them in the human brain (ROSSI, E. (1977), The Cerebral Hemispheres in Analytical Psychology. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 22: 32–51. doi: 10.1111/j.1465-5922.1977.032_1.x).

Regardless of the philosophical questions about human nature, archetypes are extremely useful in marketing. Whether they are embedded in the human nature or learned through socialization process, the effect is the same. Archetypes allow us to build strong, appealing and memorable stories.

The concept of brand is intended to produce unconscious emotional reaction and attitude towards it and affect conscious behavior of target audience. Jung would tell, that brand has to influence psyche to react in a certain way. Archetypes are doing just that. Therefore if you want to make your brand narration efficient, you should look for the archetypes that are connected to reactions and attitudes you want to trigger.

There are 12 main archetypal characters, from which marketer can select the one that fits the best his brand. This will allow to focus content marketing on the story that reflects brand character. There are also so called archetypal events (ie. birth, death, end of childhood, creation of the world, journey or quest) and archetypal people (mother, father, old wise man, villain) that embedded into the story will make it emotional and moving for the audience.

Pharmaceutical brands for many reasons, including regulatory, cannot promote products with more than factual stories. However it is not forbidden to build their own image in a way that makes them more human. From 12 primary archetypal characters there are eight that are reflecting exactly what most of pharma companies would like to be known for.

8 Archetypes for Pharma Marketing

The Innocent

Is the archetype that believes in a beautiful, protected world where everybody can be happy. It is full of faith and optimism. It’s greatest fear is to be punished for doing something bad. It is an archetype that looks good for all pharma companies, as at the end they want to eradicate disease. Vaccines may be the best example here.

The Orphan

Known also as a regular guy or the everyman, the Orphan believes in equality. It also wants to connect with others and does not want to be left behind or stand out from the crowd. This makes it great archetype for any generic drug manufacturer.

The Caregiver

The Helper is an obvious choice for Healthcare Industry, it is the one who help others. This archetype who shows compassion and generosity and fears of selfishness is like created for pharma marketers.

The Explorer

The seeker looks for the freedom to explore the world. This archetype fits to disruptive companies, to those who change old rules.

The Creator

The creator is an artist who can create valuable things out of a dream. What he fears of is the failure to deliver completed masterpiece. Doesn’t it sound like pharma development?

The Sage

This is the sage, the scientist, the researcher. The Sage believes in the truth and is always looking for it. The only thing he fears is ignorance. While this archetype sometimes is not able to act, it’s wisdom makes it perfect for innovation in pharma.

The Magician

The magician, known also as the healer tries to understand the universe and make dreams come true. What he fears are adverse effects of his action, but this archetype is also very close to what pharma does with its research and application.

Which archetype reflects your pharma company the best?

To be clear, we are not sure whether we are born with embedded stories in our guts. It is more probable, following the Ockham’s razor, that archetypes are just a way of describing something that is shaped by our historical and cultural heritage. It does not matter, as what we can observe is that archetypes indeed are embedded in the best stories of our times. From Harry Potter and the Lord of The Rings to the Wolf of Wall Street we can see the figures and events as described by Jung and his followers.

As soon as you identify the archetype that fits your brand, you do not need to really tell anyone, just brief your agency having in mind what Jung discovered. What is the story behind the Archetype Character, what is it looking for and what are the values it follows?

Pharma marketing knows real stories about the most archetypal events of human birth and death, it is all about heroic fight against disease and looking for truth that changes world. It is hard to understand why looking for examples of branding with archetypes we never see pharma. Is it because pharma marketing does not ember those “magic” patterns in their stories. Why don’t we change it right now?

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About Piotr Wrzosiński

Piotr Wrzosinski is a sociologist focused on digital marketing in highly regulated industries. He combines experience from top players in tobacco, financial services, and pharma with a passion to the content marketing and technology. All opinions posted are his own unless stated otherwise.

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