Brand Archetypes with Nathan Fulwood.
We were joined by Founder and Strategy Director of Create Future, Nathan Fulwood, to discuss branding and brand archetypes in particular.
- Nathan Fulwood
- Jan 04 2022
Tom: Hello and welcome to Episode 14 of the Make Things Better podcast. Today I have Nathan Fulwood, founder of Create Future to talk to us about Create Future and also brand archetypes. So thanks for coming on, Nathan.
How are you doing today?
Nathan: Yeah, I'm great. Thank you. It's really nice to meet you Tom. Thanks for asking me on.
Tom: Yeah, cheers for coming on. And I'm quite excited to talk to you today about various things.
So first of all, do you want to tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up setting up Create future?
Nathan: Yeah, yeah, I'd be happy to. Yeah, so my background is, well I got into internet and digital quite early.
I'll not share my age, but it's advancing in years. And then when I went to university in the states, I kind of got an email address there and I didn't know anybody else with an email address. So I kind of got into the internet very early, I started working on it around like 1999. In terms of a job, I worked for the Press Association, I worked for Orange. And that was when Orange first launched a lot of their digital products. Then I moved into agency and I've been in the agency side for over 20 years.
I moved out to to Edinburgh and I was working in one of Scotland's biggest and helped grow one of Scotland's biggest digital agencies over the course of about ten years and then after a couple of years, myself and a couple of colleagues and friends then decided to set up Create Future.
We were a little bit frustrated by a couple of things that we were seeing.
And, you know, in the sort of like client agency relationships we thought there was probably a bit of a better way to do it, you know, to to be a bit more agile and more collaborative. And so we wanted to try that.
And we kind of tried that and brought our respective skills in brand and service design and creative direction together. And yeah, and we threw our hat into the ring and yeah, never looked back.
Tom: Yeah. So what is it specifically that Create Future do?
You mentioned service design and brand there, are they the two main aspects then?
Nathan: Yeah, there's three main aspects to Create Future. We are a design and innovation company. So we work across brand, we work across product and proposition, and we work across experience design and yes so the challenges are in those kind of areas.
And yeah, so we're based in Edinburgh, there's about 17 or 18 of us. We've made a couple of hires, I've lost count recently and we work all across the world really.
We're working in the states at the moment. Our clients include people like Adidas and Penguin Random House, we've got Financial Services clients, a few drinks, big whiskey brands and so on. So it's a nice mix of clients. Yeah, but it tends to fall in those areas, brand. products and experience design.
Tom: Yeah, I was just reading the Adidas case study actually on your website. It looked quite interesting. Can you tell us briefly about that.
Nathan: Yeah, that's a nice example of what I was talking about, really, in terms of the way that we wanted to work, being a little bit differently.
So everything that we do is underpinned by design thinking so principles in design thinking and particularly around, you know, collaboration, bringing the team together from the client side and from ours to work really closely on the project, in terms of rapid prototyping, you know, and again, lots of kind of iterative iterative testing to to get to a solution. And customer centricity, you know, really kind of putting the needs of the customer at the heart of anything that you're designing and sprints, you know, design sprints are a really good way of doing that.
You know, in the olden days, we used to kind of lock ourselves in a room for five days and we'd go from having an understanding of a problem right through to kind of prototyping something and testing that with clients within five days.
And there's obviously research that goes into it before that. And there's a lot of work afterwards to make sense of the solution that you propose, but that's really the heart of it. And we've been through that process a few times with Adidas looking at, you know, how they sell hype, how they build and sell the kind of trainers in their hype lines, through to how they use user generated content. And yes, they've been a good client for us for a number of years. And it's also one of the other aspects of us is that we're kind of a very open book to where we work.
So that collaboration is important. So it's really nice to see actually a lot of the practices that we introduce and the approaches and methodologies that the clients then pick up and they start using that language and they start using those processes and approaches as well.
So kind of always trying to leave the client in a better place and teach them something while they work on this?
Tom: Yeah, that's certainly something that I think we try and do, as well at Hive IT. That's something that I've found is that we'll go and work with a client and then we'll kind of pass on a certain strategy. Maybe it's like user research or something else. And then it kind of means that that work is going to have an impact on them for quite a long time as well, so obviously, Adidas is a huge brand, a great example.
But let me ask you, so why is branding important?
Nathan: Yeah, it's a really good question. I've been thinking about it before coming into the podcast. There's a number of reasons. The most compelling for me and there's so many reasons but I think the one that probably lands best is that investing in a brand is a good way to move the conversation away from price. So if you've got like for like products, then nine times out of ten the customer is going to go for the cheapest because obviously it makes sense to do that. So unless you're asking the client or customers to consider other factors like quality and reliability, look and feel, you know what else that product is going to do for them in their life, you know, marketing can sell those kind of features and benefits for products. But if you develop and you invest in your brand you kind of reinforce those qualities of say quality or reliability or style across everything that you do, every product, every interaction.
So, then you cut out a large piece of that buying cycle, you cut out the consideration phase almost entirely if you build a really strong brand and a really strong brand relationship with your consumers, you become a go to brand. For example, you buy Levi's because Levi's got a reputation for style and for quality and durability. So you don't even bother looking and any other brands of jeans and you're less concerned about how much that pair of jeans costs. So a lot of the time that is how we can like rationalize investing in brand.
The other is that it just is a good investment and it helps you get a lot more from your marketing spend and lots of studies have shown that over time that if you invest in long term brand building, you will see your return on investment on your marketing effort kind of go up.
And then finally, just a really important one I think is around, you know, your employee brand as well, your brand positioning, your brand to your customers should be, well aligned internally and externally. So you're getting into things like, you know, your brand purpose, the missions and the values, you know, everything that you to your customer, your staff need to believe and to feel and to be motivated by too, you know, otherwise there's that sense of inauthenticity. But if they believe it and they live it, then they're much more willing to kind of support you in the mission and what you're trying to achieve, they're going to feel that they belong there and they're going to be more invested in your success.
I was catching up with a friend recently who works for Dr. Martins, and I was asking how he was enjoying working there and he was saying he's really enjoying it. He was saying it's great and that it's the most diverse and most inclusive places he's ever worked. You know, he walks around and he's got a really diverse workforce. There's people dressed in all kinds of different styles and as you'd expect, there's absolutely no dress code.
He's working with colleagues of all sorts of, you know, gender diversity, racial diversity, sexual diversity. And you'd expect that from a brand like Dr. Martins because you know, they're born of punk. And it's great that they're worth billions but still at their heart, you've got that punk ethos, you know, and it's reflected in the way that they treat people at work and allow people to express their individuality. And I think it's really important to have that brand authenticity inside and out.
Tom: Yeah. So do you think there's much of a difference between like a business's brand and business's identity?
Nathan: When when there is a big difference I think it comes back to, as I say, authenticity, there is a problem.
You know, we just like when we meet people who are trying to pretend to be something that they're not. You can sniff it out kind of pretty, pretty quickly. You know, so it's a bit like emperor's new clothes, you know, so unless it is authentic and you've been through a process, you believe it and you actually do live those values and live that brand, then it falls apart kind of very quickly.
For one thing, like customers just really won't buy into it, but also the people who are there to express it, you know, your teams and your staff, they will struggle to know really what they're supposed to be doing with it, they'll start to put their own spin on it and really it kind of starts to fall apart.
Tom: Yeah. So perhaps that's why a business like Dr. Martens where they've got people who are reflecting their brand at the real heart and center and the core of that business, that kind of works really well.
Nathan: Absolutely, yes.
Tom: Yeah. So how does a business actually like discover its personality and what they want to get across through their branding?
Nathan: Yeah. Again, another good question. You know, in some cases, it's relatively easy, maybe you have a company that has a strong founder so often a company will borrow the brand personality of that individual, you know, and you maybe see that in the case of something like the early days of Virgin with Richard Branson, you know, the brand is very similar to the personality at the heart of it.
But that's that's kind of rare, I would say more often than not, it's like a little bit harder and it requires some shaping. But it's definitely shaping, you know, it's kind of revealing that brand personality rather than trying to force a brand personality on an organization.
So I see brand very much as a kind of conversation. You know, there has to be this overlap between your brand personality and your customers, you know. So what do your customers need from you?
Is it excitement? Is it reliability? Is it love? You know, is it kind of support? And often that need that your customer has or the way that they want to be made to feel by you will influence the kind of brand personality that you occupy.
So often that's a kind of really good starting point. And that is, you know, why I kind of like sort of brand archetypes as a tool. In terms of kind of finding that kind of core personality type, you know, and occupying that when you're having those conversations with your clients and then in behaving that way, you draw a lot of people who are attracted to that type of personality or like to see that sort of facet of their personality in themselves.
The way that Harley-Davidson, you know, is a classic rebel brand and attracts people, whether they're like a 50 year old overweight guy who's not particularly rebellious in other aspects of their life.
You know, they will be attracted to this because they want to still feel like they've got like a rebellious aspect to their character. So they'll choose to ride a Harley Davidson.
Tom: Yeah. And I think like that was a good point you made about how often the brand will reflect kind of the founder's personality to some extent, probably not so much nowadays, as businesses have obviously just become so big and there's so many people involved.
But I think I did read something at one point about Steve Jobs and Apple, about how Steve Jobs's sort of simplicity, and like extreme, intense focus on design and making that simple is reflected in Apple products.
And then how Apple users purchase Apple products because they want to have that identity. And you have like that I as well, like, you know, in iPhone, iMac, whatever else. And iMac, did I just say that? Is that a thing?
Nathan: It was a product, yeah, probably before your time, to be honest but yeah they really made a name for Apple.
Tom: Okay. I was worried then, that I'd got that wrong because you have MacBooks now. But yeah, anyway, all of that kind of individuality and that I kind of being the main part of that.
Nathan: Yeah, yeah. We're getting a little bit into brand identity there, past personality.
But again with branding it's consistency as well. So if you can define that brand personality type, so there's lots of different models, but let's say if you take a Jungian approach, there's twelve different personality types, you know, everybody's different like everybody under the Sun has got a different personality but there's roughly twelve personality types from hero to sage, engineer, creator, explorer, you know.
And so if you can identify that kind of type then that's useful, you know, and everybody kind of gets behind that and understands like how we behave in this kind of like explorer way, which means, you know, we're always looking to kind of like, take a customer somewhere, give them new experiences, things that they would maybe not not be able to do to before, you know?
So it then allows you to act a little bit more consistently because brand, I think, is about showing up and being consistent and using things like, you know, the I is a good example there because that's developing salience and consistency.
So when you see the I before a product, you know, it's from Apple and you know that Apple is a great kind of creator brand. It's going to enable me to kind of create things and be creative and do things that I hadn't before, as well as obviously, you know, Apple's association with elegant design and quality of manufacture and simplicity, these kind of things and they're the things, as you say, that customers customers are drawn to. So, drawn to by the brand, drawn to by the identity. And you know, as I was saying before they've then built that preference.
You know, I'm not even going to look at PCs. I'm just going to buy whatever Apple puts out, you know, not just because of the ecosystem around it, but because I trust that brand and in buying that brand I'm kind of saying a little something about myself as well and the way I want to see myself so all good reasons to invest in building a strong brand.
Yeah, that makes sense. So can you tell us what are brand archetypes? Because I read that blog that you wrote a year ago now and it was a really good blog.
Nathan: Yeah, as I said, just quite simply, brand archetypes were introduced by the philosopher Carl Jung previously. So there are kind of twelve common archetypes, so these unconscious groupings that we place individuals into sort of based on their characteristics and behavior.
There are lots of different variations, as I said, but these are the common ones so there's outlaw, magician, hero, lover, jester, an everyman, caregiver, ruler, creator, innocent, sage and explorer. And and soon as I say that, certain associations probably come straight to mind. Whether there's people you think of or a few brands might jump into your mind. So, beauty brands often kind of occupy that 'lover' space because they make us feel desirable, you have brands like Dove, which are in a kind of more 'innocent' space because they are kind of very clean and pure and a offer safety.
Then you have a brand like Microsoft and often brands will occupy likw two spaces so Microsoft us kind of like a sage and kind of like an engineer type archetype.
So as I say, they're kind of really, really useful and I find that doing a little bit of work on brand archetypes after speaking to clients, after speaking to teams, after speaking to customers, after seeing where there's an opportunity in the market to differentiate, I think I find archetypes a really useful starting off point for when you're building a brand.
And once you've kind of found that, people just get it really quickly, they go, 'Yes, definitely. Yeah, we're an everyman brand, we're here for everybody, you know, we're properly accessible we talk in a simple language. I get it'.
And it then really makes honing other useful tools like brand values, principles, tone of voice. And eventually, obviously kind of campaigns and content creation, all of that a lot easier once you've agreed on one of these kind of core archetypes.
Tom: Yeah. And I guess this kind of applies to most of branding in general, but I suppose that also gives the business or the company almost like a pillar to kind of fall back on, something to revert back to, like a core principle?
And then you can kind of question, OK, is this design expressing this brand archetype, whatever that may be.
Nathan: Absolutely, going back to the rebel thing. If you say, 'Yeah, we're a rebel brand', well, what are you rebelling against? How can you substantiate that? What change are you really fighting for in the world?
And then as I say, if you're planning on building a product or putting a campaign out, you know, is this different? Is this really pushing anything? Is this changing anything in the world, you know?
So as you say, they really should be useful, heuristics is a fancy way of saying that. But like kind of shortcuts, you know, to sort of just keep referring back to and think, you know, are we acting in a way that's consistent with decisions that we have made previously about how we want to behave?
Tom: Yeah, that does make sense, and I imagine that's really very useful for companies. So how does a company get it's personality across then through the branding?
Nathan: Oh, it's everything, every single touchpoint. And that's that's the importance of kind of getting it right and making sure that everybody internally understands it before you start trying to live it externally, you know, clearly, it will come across in your visual identity.
So once you've got a personality, you know, you can think about the images that you use, the typefaces and fonts that you use and obviously into the language that you use, in the way that you speak, you know, the tone of voice getting those across in all of your kind of marketing material. But equally then, you know, at Hive you do a lot of UX design as well. So you can take that brand personality and translate it into experience principles or UX principles that will really shape the way that you design the journeys.
You know, let's say you're trying to occupy the Engineer or the Sage space. In those journeys you're giving the customer the confidence that everything is really highly engineered as you go through it. Where-as with an innocent one, you might strip everything back and just ask as few questions as possible.
So it comes across in all those ways and then offline as well. You know, the way that you that you treat people and the nature of the conversations and interactions that you have.
So it really should sit. That personality and those core brand values should really influence everything and every customer interaction, which is a bit of a fluffy answer, a bit of a get out, but it really is, it really is the case, you know, because if you're acting in one way in your marketing campaigns, for instance, or in one channel, but then you're not acting in a consistent way in another channel.
Then that's very, very damaging for the way that someone perceives your brand because as I say, it should all really be about consistency and that consistency has to build up over time to build that kind of loyalty and preference.
Tom: Yeah, definitely. And I think when it comes to branding as well, you'd like to see a brand that has integrity. And if there's aspects going on within the business internally that other people aren't seeing, that does not align with the general like idea and the brand archetype and just the brand in general, then that misalignment is going to result in a difference between that identity and the brand and what's being presented. And there's going to be a complete lack of integrity there.
Nathan: Exactly. Integrity and consistency. And you know, again, as I said, internally, having a strong brand, both personality and a brand mission means that everybody should be moving in the same direction. And you may diverge a little bit, you know, because people have the different ways of doing it.
But if everybody kind of understands we act in this way, you know, we behave in this way and we're headed in this general direction, then you know, you will move much more effectively towards, you know, whatever that mission is, whatever you're trying to achieve.
Tom: Yeah. So I've got one more final question for you, which is a little bit more abstract. It's a bit more broad, and I hope you're able to come up with something on the spot as I appreciate I have not prepped you for it at all. But, what can people do to make things better?
Nathan: Ah to make things better? Okay. Well, there's two ways you can answer this. There's a couple of ways you can even interpet just those few words, isn't there?
So I mean, yeah, I would love to say like hand on heart say that here at Create Future we're here to make the world a better place. But the truth of matter is, you know, we're in this with our clients to help them have successful businesses and kind of make money, you know, and I hope we do leave, as I was saying earlier, we do leave our client's teams in a better place. Certainly, we aim to do no harm.
You know, we leave our teams in a good place I think when we work with them and especially the work we're trying to do the best work that we possibly can. Especially, if you take the work in financial services, for example, you know, if we helped create better products in financial services, then they help people feel more secure. You know, they help, people to enjoy better retirement, you know, makes their savings go further. So hopefully the work that we do leaves the world in a better place for that.
But I think I kind of for me and for everyone at Create Future, I think whatever you're making has to be done while treating people well, really, you know, you can build something you know and break people at the same time.
And that's that's not right, we've got to where we are now, a successful agency with kind of great clients doing great work, you know, without breaking people. We don't have a crunch culture, everybody's well-being here is vitally important.
So I think when I started, like I was really worried before starting this business that I was kind of too nice. You know, I didn't have that entrepreneurial killer instinct that, that they say you need, you know putting work before everything, just smash your goals and all that kind of stuff.
And that just hasn't been my attitude. And I've learned over time that you don't need to and it's not healthy. You will make better things if people feel valued, if they feel psychologically safe, if they feel included, if they feel respected and you'll have a better time doing it.
So that's that's how I think you make things better, by treating people well.
Tom: Yeah, I think that was like your third main principle on your website as well. I noticed that, it was about having that internal sort of friendly work environment.
Nathan: Yeah, fun, fast and collaborative. They are our main values that and that applies internally and externally, you know, we have fun while we're doing work, we work fast, delivering values quickly, testing and learning as we go and then, you know, collaboration as well.
But again within all of that, it's about just treating treating people well because there's no point doing it if you're going to break people along the way.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. And I think we are seeing in general throughout society like a bit more of a shift, at least to the mindfulness of this kind of logic being applied in businesses fortunately.
Nathan: Yeah and hopefully over time, there's more and more kind of metrics and studies that show it's like a more efficient and effective way, there'll always be bad workplaces and there'll always be bad managers, but yeah, hopefully over time, you know, the people who treat people well will be on the right side of history.
Tom: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thanks a lot for coming on Nathan you've been a great guest.
Nathan: Yeah. Thanks very much, Tom. Anytime.
Tom: I really enjoyed it. And where can people find Create Future and maybe your business on social media as well?
Nathan: You can come up to Edinburgh. You can find us in person. Come up to Edinburgh and drop in for a coffee. But yeah, Createfuture.com, we're on LinkedIn and Twitter. And I'm really happy to connect with anybody individually if they want to chat and take any of this further. Thanks Tom, and pass on my regards to everyone at Hive.
Tom: thanks a lot for coming on. Thanks for listening, and I hope you have a great rest of your day.
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