Building Industry Archetypes

Over the last few weeks we have looked at ways to create more loyal advocates – part 1 & part 2 – increase attraction & optimize curiosity. Over the next few weeks we are going to move up the Marketing 4.0 Transformational Model by bringing to life the notion of Industry Archetypes. To begin we will refresh by reframing the meaning of Archetypes through amplifying the Caregiver.

Brands are as much a part of our daily lives as our workplaces and neighborhood landmarks. Big, enduring brands become icons – not just of corporations, but of whole cultures. Coca-Cola not only has the most recognized logo in the world, but the logo has also become a symbol of the Western way of life. Today the brand is a repository, not merely of functional characteristics, but of meaning and value. But if we are to identify and effectively leverage the essential elements, or “immutables,” of our brands, we must become fluent in the visual and verbal language of archetypes.

Brands that capture the essential meaning of their category – and communicate that message in subtle and refined ways – dominate the market just as Pedigree Pal has an iconic Caregiver. The Caregiver is an altruist, moved by compassion, generosity, and a desire to help others. The Caregiver fears instability and difficulty not so much for him – or herself, but for the impact on people who are less fortunate or resilient. 

Meaning in life, therefore, comes from giving to others. In fact, the worst fear is that something will happen to a loved one – and on the Caregiver’s watch. In Life is Beautiful, the father is so motivated by love for his son that it seems almost immaterial that he himself is killed, as long as the child is saved.

Advertising agency TBWA was charged with revitalizing Pedigree dog food, one of the most important brands for Mars, the huge global company famous for Snickers, Uncle Bens, and other consumer staples. Pedigree is the most prominent dog food on the planet, yet it was under siege. High-priced ‘health’ brands were getting more affordable; cheap ‘private-label’ brands were improving quality. In other words, Pedigree like so many established brands, was to scrutinize the competition, improve at the margins and hope for the best.

Until that is, the TBWA sponsored Disruption Days, which were held in seven cities over two months. The point of the exercise was to identify any and all conventions in the category as “the first step in trying to find a way to disrupt those conventions.” To that end, the participants “set out to completely immerse themselves in the images, the language, the packaging, the smells, the tastes (yes, even the tastes), and everything else associated with life in the world of dogs and their food.

They also immersed in the history of the company and the brand – a history that traces back to London in 1935, a few years after Forrest E. Mars Sr, set out for England to expand his father’s fledgling empire. The team built ‘brand attics’ – timelines of products, campaigns, artifacts – and then ‘mine’ the attics to see what we learn. The aim was to uncover a treatise from 50 years ago, a product that got invented and discarded, nuggets that get to the ‘guts’ of the organization. 

The Mars family has been a passionate, pet-lover family for generations. In many parts of the world, Pedigree invented the market, and it had always been the brand endorsed by breeders. But in the quest to compete against a barrage of new entrants, Pedigree forgot why it was here. It had become a manufacturing company – “How do we make crunchier food that costs less?” rather than a company that said, “We are in the business because we love dogs.” There was a soul that had got lost.

Rediscovering its ‘soul’ allowed Pedigree to rejuvenate its culture – and infuse the brand with a renewed sense of purpose. You don’t buy or adopt a dog to feed it. Your primary purpose is to share your life with this other ‘member of your family.’ Pedigree couldn’t just be about dog food. It had to be ‘for the love of dogs’ – dogs living the best lives they can. TBWA’s Lee Clow, the creative genius behind Apple’s ‘Think Different’ and the Energiser Bunny (and a dog lover himself), summed up the brand challenge this way, “If you can prove you love dogs as much as I do, I’ll let you feed mine.”

So that’s what Pedigree set out to do. Mars CEO Paul Michaels (aka the Company’s ‘Top Dog’) issued an eloquent statement of beliefs called Dogma that reminded his colleagues why Pedigree exists and how it should behave (“We’re for Dogs”, it begins. “Some people are for whales, Some are for the trees. We’re for dogs. The big ones and the little ones. The guardians and the comedians. The pure breeds and the mutt.”) Dogma is a strikingly beautiful, surprisingly, rich document that includes a dog-loving Manifesto, A Dog Bill of Rights, even an engaging description of Pedigree’s target audience. 

The next step was to walk the canine talk, so Pedigree adopted all sorts of dog-centric innovations and activations to recast its culture. Business cards and ID badges were redesigned to include pictures of each employee’s dog. Employees were encouraged to bring their dogs to work, or where that was not feasible, to put them in on-site day care. Simply put, you could no longer spend time inside the company without encountering dogs in all their glory. It was a cultural breath of fresh air – inspired by a purpose-driven blast from the past. 

It was only then, after the dog-centric culture began to take hold inside the organization, that Pedigree took its message to customers. The marketing wasn’t just about new ads, although a series of award winning spots under the tagline “Dogs Rule.” It was about a high profile commitment to advocacy. Pedigree led public campaigns around the world to improve the lot of dogs. When Pedigree ran its first-ever Super Bowl ad, the spot did not push product, it pushed dog adoption.

It’s hard to overstate the Transformation at Pedigree since those Disruption Days. The culture is different, the marketing messages are different, the conversations with customers is different, even something as technical as how the company presents  dogs on packaging and in ads is different. 

TBWA’s Lee Clow believes that Pedigree’s distinctive point of view about how to build for the future, based on a different way of making sense of its past, has met the brand challenge. People at the company “used to come to work every day thinking they worked for a dog food company, NOW they come in thinking they work for a company that loves dogs”

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