New archetypes for a new world

April 11, 2017 | Riccardo Cristiani

In Is Gender Equality Future-proof?”  we looked at the importance of going beyond equality in order to champion new feminine identities to aspire towards. Achieving this may seem bewildering at first yet many brands and businesses are doing just that and coming out on top.

Early in 2016, Axe launched Find Your Magic. The Axe Effect was out and so was its monodimensional view on the values that men aspire towards. In its place stood an advertisement that encouraged men to embrace their true selves, even if this meant opening up to their more feminine qualities too.

The campaign was driven by cultural insights revealing that even though society is progressing, many teenagers and young adults struggle to develop self-confidence because they find themselves at odds with an old definition of masculinity. Matthew McCarthy, the senior director of Axe and men’s grooming at Unilever said, “We’ve been part of guys’ lives for decades, and Axe champions real guys and the unique traits that make them attractive to the world around them.” As the world around us changes, the businesses that pay attention and change accordingly have a greater chance of succeeding.

As Innate Motion’s Femke van Loon has stated in Beyond the Powergirl, a publication that aims to redefine and transform feminine values in the marketing space, “In an increasingly social, transparent, and inter-dependent world, people are inspired by innate feminine values to shape a more sustainable, happier and positive future they want to live in.” It’s not just about creating archetypes for women to aspire to but rather values that males can adopt too. This is the way forward to a society with a better balance between female and male values.

Just as Axe’s Find Your Magic campaign challenges traditional notions of masculinity, H&M’s advert for their autumn 2016 collection challenged feminine ideals within the fashion industry.  Using actresses of diverse ages, body types and gender identifications, they are bringing their brand into the modern age of women who aren’t afraid to express the sides of themselves that fall outside of the norm. Even when the Powergirl makes an appearance, she is surrounded by a rich spectrum of feminine identity with each embodying the Feminine Outlaw archetype:

“The Outlaw embodies repressed rage against structures that no longer serve life, but are still supported by society. In a world full of rules and principles, the Outlaw breaks conventions in a manner that feels liberating to people, enabling a space of freedom in a too strict normative world.”

In using the female Outlaw of tomorrow, H&M are empowering women to be a subversive force. “The Outlaw of tomorrow doesn’t choose to shock with huge acts of rebellion but instead interferes with structures and conventions outsmarting them and showing that change is possible”. Through reference to powerful influencers such as Jillian Hervey and Hari Nef H&M are unlocking that potential and causing the people they serve to interact with them at a more meaningful, resonant level.

According to a 2016 study by SheKnowsMedia, 62% of women they surveyed believe they do not see people like themselves in ads and 82% of women they surveyed want to see real women in ads. H&M knows it and so does JC Penney. The Here I Am: Why Size Shouldn’t Define Us video opens with writer, photographer and activist Jes Baker asking the question, “Would my life be better if I were thinner?” and continues to look at the lives of four other plus-size women who are achieving success despite the constraints that society places on women who are considered “fat”. Using the Lover archetype, JC Penney breaks from plus-size conventions:

“The female Lover of tomorrow, entering an era where female values are re-evaluated, knows intuitively that in order to love someone else, she first has to love herself. In that way love becomes an endless source of pleasure and affection that can be dedicated to those around them.”

By displaying the struggles that these five powerful women have gone through to achieve the self-love that they now possess, JC Penney walks the emotional ground that many women, plus-size or not, encounter on a daily basis. This allows the brand to connect with the people they serve on a much deeper, more human level.

In Beyond the Powergirl, the Lover is illustrated by writer and actress Lena Dunham.

“Lena, breaks down social barriers that so often prohibit women from excelling in life. She does this in many unconventional ways but always from a place of self-love and self-worth.”

As the world changes, it can be a daunting task for brands and businesses to make the necessary shifts to stay relevant. When they do the payoff speaks for itself. In the same survey by SheKnowsMedia, it was found that 83% of women surveyed think that any brand can authentically enter the pro-female ad space. That’s a good figure to work with and with the help of thoroughly considered archetypes it’s a manageable entry point to achieve. There is a whole world of potential archetypes waiting to be explored. Give the people you serve something to believe in with Innate Motion’s latest eBook, Beyond the Powergirl.


Posted By Riccardo Cristiani

After his PhD in Psychology, Riccardo entered the world of market research at Censydiam with the logic of using human understanding to move business in favor of people. Always intrigued by human nature and cultural differences, in 2007 he joined Innate Motion. Riccardo started his journey as a cultural decoder and business humanizer, running global and local projects in Europe, Australia, Asia, and the US. Riccardo is currently living in Miami Beach with his husband, Filippo.

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