The Value Platform Archetypes


In the last post, we discussed the purpose of a value platform: to serve as the customer-centric beating heart of an organization’s strategy, informing everything it does in order to bust silos, boost efficiencies, and (most importantly) drive revenue and growth. 

Grounding the Value Platform are the 16 Value Platform Archetypes™, which have emerged over nearly 30 years of customer-insight-driven strategy work. What I noticed after a few years of conducting bottoms-up strategy projects is that we always surfaced variations on the same themes. The first emerged from a brand strategy project for a B2B technology company back in the early 90’s. After numerous 1:1 interviews with technology decision-makers, we noticed three primary needs that drove decision-making:

  • Help me feel secure. This is the “no one ever got fired for buying IBM” territory, and is usually held by the incumbent. In this project, Lucent captured this emotional territory.
  • Make me feel valued. In the B2B world, this territory is owned by the company that  invests in relationship sales and customer service. Ericsson had the credibility to own this territory.
  • Give me freedom. In this project, this meant, “Don’t make me come back to you, the vendor, every time I need to make a change. Give me the flexibility to make changes to my network on the fly.” This territory was a white-space opportunity that the client was able to deliver on.

Many B2B technology projects and years later, the Security, Esteem and Freedom archetypes continue to surface along with others. I've synthesized results from projects across sectors, and combined them with psychological studies and models like Maslow, to develop a repeatable, scalable model that shortcuts the traditional strategy process. 

Archetypes in use: a compass and a sword

In other words, what I’ve learned over the years is that you probably don’t need to spend a million dollars on a bottoms-up strategy project. Human nature is human nature. It doesn’t change, which makes it extraordinarily useful in today's rapidly changing world. You do, however, need to find the “ownable” archetype for your business and use it to ground all elements of your brand and business strategy, operating model and marketing as best-practice leaders do. Nearly every wildly successful brand is based an Archetype (or Archetypes – think of them as DNA building blocks that can be combined.)  A few examples:

  • Salesforce empowers achievement-minded sales pros (Controller + Achiever Archetypes)
  • Apple empowers creative-minded individuals and companies through stylish, easy-to-use technology (Controller + Creative) 
  • TaskRabbit focuses on freedom from tedious chores (Delegator) 

The first step is to identify your best-fit customer, which is defined by their mindset and what drives them to make decisions: emotion and unfulfilled needs, not demographics or a rational weighing of features and benefits, as proven out by my former employer Forrester after extensive analytics and research. Economists have finally arrived at the conclusion that markets aren’t rational; your market isn’t either, no matter what you sell.  

The Archetype approach helped us clarify our understanding of our most important customers and tighten our product thinking to target the highest value opportunities. It’s very useful to gain alignment.
— VP Product Development

Your Archetype can be found at the intersection of a core customer need state, what you can credibly deliver (externally and internally,) and the open white space in your market. The good news is that most sectors are dominated by companies that use rational appeals (or just talk endlessly about themselves without focusing on the customer)… so you should have plenty of opportunity here.

Once you find your Archetype, it’s helpful to create customer personas so that everyone in the organization understands who they’re serving and what’s essential for this customer. From this foundation, you’ll develop the brand strategy, integrated customer experience strategy, partner and partner experience strategy, employee value proposition and employee experience strategy, and so on.

This human-centric strategic core also informs your digital transformation strategy, innovation strategy, and future of work. It informs your customer-centric operating model and your culture change efforts. The key here is to use it as a customer-centric platform on which everything is grounded. Your decision-making, resource allocation, metrics across the organization all drive to this customer outcome. It serves as a compass and a sword, pointing the way for all and cutting away what does not directly get you to your destination. And, like a platform, all of your cumulative efforts strengthen the platform over time. You become increasingly stronger, more aligned, more competitive, more efficient, more able to meet your customers' needs. Which in turn drives loyalty and growth.