Everybody loves a hero. Or an anti-hero.

Consumer culture theory (CCT) researchers have begun to realize that myths play a large role in the development of a local consumer culture. Jung, in his work on collective unconsciousness, discovered that people relate strongly to the concept of hero and villain, or the battle of us vs. them.

Movies, television shows, novels and plays have long understood the power of this concept and have used it effectively to develop and sustain audience interest; one only has to look at the enduring popularity of films such as Star Wars or Batman to recognize this.

Bodkin, Amato, and Peters (2008) note that myths allow “consumers to engage the larger questions of life: good vs. evil, personal and societal transformation, creation and destruction. Deep issues attract attention and engage emotions.” Corsini (1979) suggests that people “naturally identify with the hero, generalizing the positive attributes of the hero onto themselves and projecting unacceptable aspects of themselves onto the villain.”

Bodkin et al (2008) examined how myth and conflict in a consumer context, i.e. advertising, drew customers into developing a committed relationship with a brand. They found that consumers tended to identify with an archetype, such as a dignified rebel a la Harley, rather than with a specific spokesperson. In another example, Ben and Jerry’s strongly developed their corporate story of a small company determined to help the world, creating the archetype of the dedicated volunteer/good Samaritan. Both companies have been richly rewarded for their archetype development with intense consumer loyalty.

From a marketer’s standpoint, a strong and natural development of a hero-like archetype could result in an enduring fan base for your brand.

References:

Bodken, C., Amato, C., Peters, C. (2008). “The role of conflict, culture, and myth in creating attitudinal commitment”. Journal of Business Research. 62 (2009), pp. 1013-1019.

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