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Lessons From Folklore: Audience Archetyping and the Modern Marketer

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Nailing down the type of content you need to build your business isn’t easy. You might have an embryonic mental snapshot of what your ideal prospect is like, but until you do the hard work of fleshing out that mental snapshot into something more substantial and concrete, creating focused, on-point content that your audience actually wants and craves, your creation and publication efforts are going to be, well, best guesses.

It doesn’t matter whether you are writing landing page copy, a series of autoresponders, or the latest version of your newsletter. Unless you understand exactly what motivates your target audience and captivates their attention, your creation efforts are going to ring hollow and fall short.

So how can you reshape your understanding of audience that’s less “mob of faceless strangers” and more “some guy named Joe”?

Audience archetyping can help you solve the content riddle.

As a recovering academic, I used to talk a lot about archetypes. In folklore and fairy tales, characters like the Hero, the Trickster, the Fool, and the Femme Fatale are instantly recognizable. They’re used to represent discrete personalities and behaviors as part of a larger narrative, and people hearing or reading these stories would instantly recognize them. When used as part of a morality tale or piece of didactic writing, archetypal characters often personified an emotion or psychological state.

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The superhero genre is an emblematic example of archetypal literature. The young, flawed, and brooding anti hero Spider-Man became the most widely imitated archetype in the genre since the appearance of Superman and Batman. Modern comic book readers (cough, me) will acknowledge that fact. You see, archetypes are often used in myths and storytelling from disparate cultures across hundreds of years.

The use of archetypes to illuminate personality and literature was advanced by psychologist Carl Jung, who suggested the existence of universal countless formers that channel both experience and emotion, resulting in recognizable and typical patterns of behavior.

When developing audience archetypes, what you’re really doing is creating a profile of a typical audience member to frame your content creation. You’re creating it for them.

An audience archetype is similar to what Adele Revella calls the Core Buyer Persona. When you’re developing content, focus exclusively on the world they live in, their problems and desires, and what stands in the way of getting what they want.

Begin by immersing yourself in your market, you’ll get glimpses of real-world pain points and frustrations – a sort of micro worldview – of your prospects. Once you understand the worldview, you can frame your content delivery in a relevant and resonant way. Your attention to their pain points and frustrations will be rewarded through leads, conversions, and sales.

Every post that I write maps back to my editorial mission, but I’m still pleasantly surprised when new and unexpected audience archetypes emerge based on something that I’ve published or mentioned during a podcast episode. Speaking of the podcast, the listening audience there is largely separate from the reading persona who gobbles up these blog posts.

As a credibility and conversion mechanism, the podcast has been incredibly successful. It’s what sets the hook for new clients. Blogging is, for me, at the very top of the funnel while the podcast is much closer to the bottom of the funnel. From top to bottom, it’s created (or perhaps merely attracted) engaged audiences based on different content streams.

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