All the marketing theory, insight and blather that I've read fails to explain some obvious phenonema. For example, why do some products seem to market themselves while others struggle? Why are some consumer behaviors so ingrained, while others disappear almost overnight?
So I think it's time to talk about Carl Jung.
Here's what the wikipedia says about Jung's theory of archetypes:
...the collective unconscious is composed of archetypes. In contrast to
the objective material world, the subjective realm of archetypes can
not be adequately understood through quantitative modes of research.
Instead it can only begin to be revealed through an examination of the
symbolic communications of the human psyche—in art, dreams, religion,
myth, and the themes of human relational/behavioral patterns. Devoting
his life to the task of exploring and understanding the collective
unconscious, Jung discovered that certain symbolic themes exist across all cultures, all epochs, and in every individual.
Let me try out an example on you:
Food = Love
Parts of the world wrestle with hunger, famine and even starvation. Yet in many of these cultures, it is unthinkable to eat brown rice. Think about that.. for thousands of years, people ate brown rice, which is easier to prepare, more nutritious and far more efficient than white rice (more food per bushel harvested). And yet, there's something so powerful about the symbol of white rice that it is embraced by people who should (and probably do) know better.
Or take it closer to home. Four obese people in a restaurant, eating far more than they should, because they can.
Or a parent sending a child to school with a white bread bagel, even though she knows that it's not healthy--just because it's what she grew up with.
These are all irrational acts, things that we can't chalk up to ignorance or lack of access to alternatives. Instead, they play into a very complex set of beliefs that seem to cross cultures.
Why so much Spam (the luncheon meat, not the email) in Hawaii and other Pacific cultures? I don't think we can chalk it up to distribution, coupons or tv ads. Instead, I think there's a complicated relationship between an archetype and the symbols that the food represents.
I think it's interesting to explore some fundamental consumer archetypes and how marketers have tapped into them (usually accidentally). The goal isn't to explain the origins of these often irrational needs, but to realize that they are there. Gravity's causes are unknown, but we still need to factor it in to our lives. Same with archetypes. We don't have to understand them to leverage them.