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The Hero, the Ruler, the Jester. Archetypes can be powerful tools when building a brand. Facebook and Google have proved just how powerful.

How did two of our times’ strongest brands build their success? Grown out of American college campuses, with organizations packed with engineers, Google and Facebook have achieved iconic status over a short period of time in virtually all parts of the world – creating strong brand positions without spending vast amounts on marketing.

An obvious answer to these questions is that Facebook and Google have created unparalleled digital experiences that are hard to ignore for anyone exposed to them. They have certainly faced many competitors, but they have prevailed through consistently delivering on the most important criteria of their categories. But their brands also show strong archetypical traits, and that helps explain their consistency and global appeal: Iconic brands often play on archetypical references, and even though a lot of them are very complex and multifaceted, the most iconic ones are those that seem to be concentrated on just one.

“We can go back to basics”

Archetypes are powerful symbols, roles, characters and stories that transcend time and culture. Or as Carl Jung explained: “forms or images of collective nature which occurs practically all over the earth as constituents of myths and at the same time as individual ­products of unconscious origin.” We can say that we all know them and understand their meaning. And it makes a lot of sense when you think about it: in India, Denmark and Uganda, people will understand the archetype of the Hero, the Mother or the Ruler. At the simplest level, we all understand the various symbols connected to them. Facebook and Google have been consistently projecting the most important features of their archetypes and have brought them into this unknown landscape of the ­Internet.

Facebook’s core

Facebook presents the same interface to everyone, encouraging you to be open and honest, celebrating participation and ensuring that you are connected at all times and on all possible devices. At the core of the Facebook brand you find this complementary connection to the elitist origins of the product: the Harvard campus. Facebook was never intended as an ­opposition to the established structures of social life, it was always about creating a positive, engaging and simple way of just being a person. The most prevalent symbol of this thought is the “like” button – a brutally simple way of “paying it forward”. Facebook was, and still is, a social brand. It is always there for you and that is the true value to the The Everyman archetype.

Google is founded on an idea that you can create a better reality for yourself right now – the Internet is easier to use, safer and less complicated in Google’s sphere. The brand has so many archetypical traits of the Innocent that they are hard to ignore: Often a simple, almost naive user interface that was in stark contrast to the chaotic, stereotypical and technological competitors at the time, a name and logo that seems childish and welcoming (even the two O’s can be argued to give deep references to the eyes of a small child – a symbol also pointed to the face of the Volkswagen Beetle), the “I’m feeling lucky”- button – showing us how easy it is to have a better search experience when you just trust in exploration, the “Don’t be evil” motto…

Even though their main business is search and the advertising that comes with it, Google’s sister brands or larger projects gives an important clue too: Calico – a company that is said to basically be set out to cure death, Google Books – a project to scan and make available all books in the world naively undermining the system of intellectual property and thereby the motivation for most to write and distribute books, Project Loon – balloons hovering over Africa, providing internet access. These projects are the expressions of a company that feel that they can do it all – and instinctively we all understand how this makes sense for them. It would not make sense for a brand like IBM or Hewlett Packard, not even Apple.

It demands discipline

All this doesn’t mean that they aren’t truly business driven. And their competitors would have much to say about the true impact of their businesses. But the power of their archetype brands overtakes this aspect in our minds. It also means high risk and deep crises when they act in a way that contradicts our expectations of them being the open or honest Everyman or the Innocent.

The conscious usage of archetypical symbols or traits demands a lot of discipline from a company. And that is probably where Facebook and Google show their biggest strength when it comes to nurturing their powerful brands: it is not because they have had extensive brand consulting from the start of their companies, in fact, I think it is safe to say that they have just acted out, creating products and services that are in tune with their deeper meaning and organizations. Remember, their product is their communication. And just as nature and markets have a tendency of shaping its artifacts and culture through almost evolutionary measures, so have these brands been shaped by their first bursts of success and their failures.

Marketers have a tendency of adding layers of complexity to their brands, either to make them more current or to adapt them better to the society they operate in. Google and Facebook, together with other global digital brands like Uber (the Ruler), Amazon (the Explorer), Snapchat (the Jester) are showing us that we can go back to basics. But this requires that products and communication are created as expressions of the same core. And that core consists of stories, patterns and characters known as archetypes. Marketers need to fully understand their brand’s archetype to be able to effectively execute compelling, emotional and consistent communication over time.

Bye bye, web tv – hello online video

Bye bye, web tv – hello online video

The decline of linear TV has been a topic for a long time, today no one is questioning the fact that the way we consume TV and moving pictures has changed.

A recent study shows that 60 percent of Swedish 15–19 year-olds get all their video consumption digitally, no linear viewing at all. So OK, linear decline is a fact, but what are they watching? Of course Netflix, HBO and the traditional play channels have taken a larger and larger share of the screen time, but studies are now showing that the clip-based viewing is growing even more. Youtube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitch and others are all creating a new behavior on how to consume content. Watching short snackable video content wherever you are is becoming a part of daily life and a larger and larger part of all online consumption. A development in many ways driven by the large social platforms that have put video right in the center of their products as a natural part of the user experience. Mark Zuckerberg himself states:

“We see a world that is video first, with video at the heart of all our apps and services.”
“Watching TV” no longer only means sitting on the sofa consuming hour-long programs on a big screen, it has become a continuous stream of online video on all different platforms and all time of the day. A natural part of our media consumption.

Back to hieroglyphs

But not only consumption, the way of communication is also changing. The new generation is leaving text-based and voice-based communication in favor of pictures, video snippets and live broadcasts, to communicate with each other. We are in many ways seeing a visual revolution where the traditional language is changing. 5,000 years ago we communicated by painting pictographic hieroglyphs on walls, then advanced alphabets gave us tools to write and express ourselves in tremendous ways. But when looking at the communication of today, it feels like we are back where we started. Expressive text has turned into one or two emojis, a dancing lady for “lets go party” or a crying smiley-face to express joy. And why not send a short video or just keep an open video live feed between you and your friends?

“We are in many ways seeing a visual revolution”

The generation growing up in today’s Western society is brought up with a smartphone or a tablet in their hand, always with the technology at hand to watch “TV” whenever they want. Do we really think that text will be their preferred consumption medium? No. We believe that the digital industry needs to revise how they deliver content and communicate with users. For how long can a job ad or an instruction booklet consist of 5,000 words instead of an explanatory video? Is the article you are reading now really in the right content form? As a matter of fact, the younger audience is using Youtube as their first stop for searching information, instead of traditional text based search engines!

That said, it’s a fact that video is also growing in popularity as primary way of consuming news. According to Swedish research firm Ungdomsbarometern as many as 8 percent of the youngest audience (15–24 years) switched from “reading” as their favorite way of consuming news to “watching them” over the last year. There’s a clear trend of increasing time spent and video starts by the day on Schibsted’s news sites Aftonbladet and VG and we are taking great leaps of integrating video as a natural part of the news experience. But honestly, it has been quite a long way to get to where we are today.

The same journey

Every transformation takes time, you need to understand how new environments actually work and there’s a strong resemblance to earlier journeys. From being printed newspapers the papers became PDFs online, the PDF was rebuilt into a desktop site where users who happened to use a mobile phone had to zoom in to be able to read, to the native apps of today. We have made the same journey when it comes to video. From simply been producing traditional TV on the web (well, it has after all been called Web TV), long scheduled broadcasts and programs, formats that honestly do not match digital and mobile experiences, we are now getting a grip of what really works.

Content needs to be adapted to whatever device it is watched on. If in mobile, make it really short, direct to the point, start adapting to vertical viewing (as users actually like holding the phone) and integrate text (very few watch with sound). Most importantly – integrate video closely in the environment where it is present. Video should not be a separate site or destination, it should be looked upon as any other type of content that tells a story.

So, video is a fantastic bearer of engaging content, earlier reserved for the TV and the sofa experience, but now available for each and every one to enhance their experience and communication. We believe that everyone needs to embrace video to stay relevant to the new generation, but be sure to find what fits into your experience, and do not produce TV on the Web.

Be prepared for the post privacy era

Be prepared for the post privacy era

The realization that the digital footprints we’re leaving behind are telling the story of our lives and our personalities has started to sink in.

But how does this really work, behind the scenes? Michal Kosinski, psychologist and data scientist at Stanford Graduate School of Business, knows this better than most. If you recognize his name, you might have heard it in connection with the Trump election. Kosinski’s research warned of the possibility of using data to influence voters in political campaigns. In the study conducted in 2013 Kosinski tried to see whether it’s possible to reveal people’s intimate traits just based on their seemingly non-informative footprints, like songs you listen to and your Facebook likes. And the answer is yes.

“Facebook probably knows more about you, than you do yourself”

“AI can be used to predict future behavior and help us understand humans a bit better. But one of the potentially negative implications is that it can be used to manipulate people, to convince them to do things that they otherwise wouldn’t have liked doing,” he explains. “Facebook probably knows more about you, than you do yourself. In the work that I published back in 2013 I said – look, this is possible.”

This is possible because a lot more than we actually publish on Facebook is recorded. Like your whereabouts, the messages you wrote but never sent, a friend that is stalking you, your spouse’s contacts, to mention some. “Maybe you never reported your political view on Facebook, but from your different actions and connections, Facebook will still know and tag your profile. Their reason is selling ads.” A lot of other industries have the same approach. Mastercard and Visa no longer define themselves as financial companies, but as customer insights companies.

“I’m a psychologist, I’m interested in human behavior and how we apply big data generated by humans to predict their future behavior and explain their psychological traits. But the very same models can be used to predict the stock market or the price of raw material or tech-hacking. There are consequences for media, for politics, for democratic systems, health care, you name it.” It’s AI:s that are putting the puzzle together. From all the digital traces we leave behind, they’re able to reveal patterns.

As humans we are only able to process a certain amount of information, and we don’t see all those links connecting characteristics and people. But the connections are there, and computers are excelling at putting them together, because they can tag patterns and they can aggregate those patterns. The very same predictions that can be made from digital footprints from Facebook, from language, websites and credit cards, for all those places where we interact digitally, can now also be made just on the base of your facial image.

“As humans we are predicting a broad range of traits from faces. From a fraction of a second of exposure, we can very accurately interpret an emotion. We have millions of years of training on this – because it’s so crucial for surviving. Being able to spot if someone is angry or very happy will determine if you should run away or hang around. We really don’t know how it works, basically your brain just does it.”

It turns out your face holds a lot of information. Gender of course, but there are also genetic factors such as the trace of your parents. Our hair reveals information on hormones, the tone of our skin, even environmental and cultural factors can be traced in our faces. And after just a few years of trying, computers are now great at predicting gender and age. And they have even become better than humans at the very human task of predicting people’s emotions. The problem is that we don’t really understand how this happens either.

“The mathematical foundation of the models is really simple; it’s basically a long equation, but with millions of coefficients, far too many for the human brain to comprehend. But the computers are able to spot those tiny details that humans fail to see, and add them up.”
In a recent study Kosinski also claims that AI now can detect sexual preferences, with a 91 percent accuracy. This has roared debate and been questioned, but still, there is no doubt AI already has abilities we could never imagine just a few years ago.

“When I’m talking about this in the western free market, people think of how some creepy marketing or politician will try to take advantage of us. But when you reflect on people living in countries that are not so free and open-minded, where homosexuality is punished by death, you realize that this is a very serious issue.”
Michal Kosinski is certain that we have entered the post privacy era, and there’s no turning back. And his message is that we need to think about how we want this to work out. “The sooner we start thinking about how to cope, the safer and more hospitable the post privacy era will be.”