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Unmasking the face of your brand

As a brand, you spend a lot of effort on creating and communicating your brand identity and image, a key factor for attracting and keeping customers. However, today, many brands have a distressing experience - they loose control over their image. The larger part of it is shaped by external opinion leaders on the Web - online influencers, bloggers, third-party publications etc. - which can easily distort the original vision. In this article, we will apply Natural Language Processing to analyse luxury fashion brand images that emerge from between the lines in external online media. We use the twelve brand archetypes as underlying framework and point out discrepancies between the intended brand identity and the actual image.

The twelve brand archetypes

The concept of archetypes was introduced by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and opponent of Freud. Jung distilled the archetypes from Greek mythology and used them as universal, innate personality profiles that are deeply ingrained in the collective unconscious.

But hang on - this is old stuff - what does it have to do with modern branding? Archetypes are universal across time and space. They stand like a rock in a time where most of us are overwhelmed by information, marketing and a huge quantity of brands and offerings. Using archetypes, you can create a clear signal for your brand that stands out from all this noise and creates a deep emotional connection with your audience.

The following brand archetypes were defined to help brands shape and communicate their image:
Figure 1: The twelve brand archetypes

Archetypes are subdivided into four big groups according to their overarching purpose - for example, Outlaws, Magicians and Heros aim to leave legacy, whereas Creators, Rulers and Caregivers provide structure to the world. Each archetype is also associated with specific personality traits - for example, the Magician exerts power, whereas the Explorer incorporates and strives for freedom. If you are interested in the details behind each archetype, the book The Hero and the Outlaw by Margaret Mark provides a complete introduction.

Using NLP to map the archetypes

To find out which archetypes characterise a brand, we compute the association between the brand and the personality traits behind each archetype. We use the algorithm of word embeddings to distill the brand archetypes based on direct descriptions, but also subtle latent associations. You can find a quick introduction on embeddings for market intelligence in this article and explore the references for additional details.

We collect a large quantity of fashion-related articles from the Web - the database combines both fashion press with mainstream sources (Vogue, Cosmopolitan...), as well as general press (The Guardian, Express...). During preprocessing, we customise our analysis using Named Entity Disambiguation to disambiguate brand names. We also apply near-synonym normalisation to standardise the personality traits for each archetype - for example, "innovative" and "novel" are treated as the same semantic token and incorporate the Creator archetype.

We then train our word embeddings and calculate the distances between the top ten luxury fashion brands which are most frequent in our data and the personality traits of the twelve  archetypes. The final result looks as follows:

Figure 2: NLP analysis of brand archetypes for top-10 luxury fashion brands

While most existing analyses assign each brand to one specific archetype, our analysis scores each brand across the full range of the twelve archetypes. It displays the full mix of archetypes that merge into the unique face of a brand.

Some brands have a clear and strong match with one of the archetypes. For example, Prada is tightly connected to the Ruler archetype with traits such as control and resilience, which is also in line with external analysis. As long as this aligns with the intended image of the brand, potential branding efforts can be focussed on reinforcing and owning this archetype.

Some brands have close associations with multiple archetypes. For instance, the real-world image of Dior - traditionally associated with Lover - reflects very strong Lover, but also Caregiver and Creator traits. While this means that the brand generally exudes strong emotions, the downside is a potential loss of focus and targeting.

Finally, in most official analyses, we see a bias towards a subset of the archetypes in luxury - for example, the Lover, Creator and Magician archetypes are used frequently. By contrast, categories like Everyman and Jester are less used - they simply don't align well with  mainstream luxury. However, our analysis shows that some brands also associate strongly with these categories. These associations can either be mitigated with appropriate communication or reinforced as a part of the puzzle that makes up the uniqueness of your brand.

Working with the examined image

The Web is extremely powerful in shaping and projecting your brand image. To build up and maintain a strong brand that customers can connect with, you need to get back control over any discrepancies between your intended image and the actually projected image - be it by mitigating or reinforcing the meaning that somebody has loaded into your brand. Using NLP and image frameworks like the 12 archetypes, you can get a differentiated and complete understanding of your projected image that will inform your next steps in branding and image construction.