How We Do It

Cultural archetypes pre-determine how members of a culture perceive their world and react to it.  Every element of a culture has an archetype and every cultural archetype has a code that explains why people do what they do.

The cultural archetype and its code can be thought of as a lock and the combination to open it. Since archetypes and their codes are unconscious, a three-phase process to decode them is needed.

Each phase consists of imprinting sessions and team analysis sessions.  Each session lasts three-hours, and is designed to help participants remember their imprint of the subject being studied. Between 12-25 respondents are recruited for each imprinting session.  The demographic profile of participants is chosen based on the culture being studied (eg. Born and raised in mainland America for the first 15 years of their life, mother spoke American English at home etc.)

The imprinting sessions are broken down according to the Three Brain model: 

During the first hour of the imprinting session, participants discuss their ideas and feelings about the topic. This is a wash out session, a purge, where we let participants speak their minds. However, we don’t believe what people say.
In the second hour, free association and storytelling exercises are used to learn about the unconscious Logic of Emotion, the tensions, and latent structures of the topic. 
In the last hour, relaxation techniques are used to help participants remember their first imprinting experiences. This phase is individual and anonymous

The information from the imprinting sessions is analyzed for structure rather than content.  In the structural analysis, the forces that bind the different elements together are carefully examined. The structure transcends the individual experiences and uncovers the cultural code.

The Archetype team participates in the process as active members of the research process rather than passive observers.  Since participating team members discover the results, they are more effectively assimilated into organizational culture.

We develop ownership and alignment within the core team. At a certain time during the process, an aha moment occurs, when everybody says “Wow! Oh, I knew it!”

 The Archetype Discovery Process

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This phase begins with the first meeting of the Archetype Team, which usually comprises of key stakeholders in the project (head of communication / marketing, brand managers, packaging etc.)

During this meeting a list of issues are explored, in order to determine the following:

  • How is the problem formulated?
  • What is the public’s perception of the problem?
  • If I had all of the answers, what would be your question?

This list of questions will be revisited throughout the whole process. Some questions will become irrelevant and new questions will emerge.

This phase is non-directive; we let participants take us where they want to go.

The first three imprinting sessions are exploratory and conducted to provide guidance to the initial questions.  It is critical to broaden the problem during this first phase; this assures that the true structure is not overlooked due to our own preconceptions, biases or hypothesis.

During 1st Phase meeting, material from the first three Imprinting Sessions is analyzed.  Through this analysis the Team identifies the relevant problem, and can begin to look for the Archetype.  This knowledge then guides the focus of the imprinting sessions in Phase 2.

Four more imprinting sessions are conducted during Phase 2.  These groups are referred to as “pattern” sessions.

Following the last imprinting session in this phase, the 2nd Phase meeting with the Archetype Team is held.  The material from the second phase imprinting sessions is analyzed and a new orientation is established.

During the session debriefings, we analyze the structures, patterns and repetitions that we have discovered. We spend more time on the logic of emotion. Members of the core team usually say that “the groups are getting better”, when in fact it is their awareness that is being sharpened.

The final three imprinting sessions are conducted during Phase 3.  Following the final imprinting session, the final Archetype Team meeting analyzes the 3rd hour stories from all of the sessions.

In this phase, we are able to discover the code, the structure of forces that organize a culture and how individuals function in it. Practical implementation, how to use the code, is a central theme of the third phase.

During the Napoleonic wars, surgeons on the battlefield would operate without washing their hands. As a result, 99% of the wounded operated on in the field died. It was not until microbes had been discovered through microscopes, and that they became recognized as a cause for infection, that the reason for sterilization became self-evident. It was thus became incorporated into practice, thereby reducing post-operatory deaths on the battlefield in subsequent wars. 

For the sake analogy, the code is like a new set of lenses, which reveal what we could not see before. With the code in hand, we can see properly and the necessary steps for positive change become self-evident.

Having discovered the Intellectual alibi, the logic of emotion and the reptilian hot buttons that drive individuals to do what they do, we can begin to anticipate consumer behavior. We now understand past successes and failures. Successes are on code, and failures are off code

We now understand how we should be communicating and why; and it is upon this knowledge that we formulate an action plan. This action plan comprises of a list of recommendation, guidelines and priorities to observe in order to implement the code successfully.

From here on out, everything should be on code.

Through an exhaustive list of all of the “On Code” elements of the culture (novels, movies, celebrities, brands, design, packaging, fashion etc.) we formulate a strategy to ensure “On Code” communication.

We analyze your competitors’ actions, to see what is on and off code.

We implement the code by making the necessary and relevant changes to what you were going to do anyway. This could include changes to product / packaging / communications / sales training / pricing etc.

The goal is to incorporate the insights from the discovery on an organization wide scale, in order to ensure the quality and effectiveness of on code communication.

See Why It Works

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