Breakfast at Jemima’s

[Cache – #12]

By Roma Chopra, Research Associate


Coining a brand name is not as simple and straightforward as it might appear. A name must capture the essence of that brand – the emotions, imagery, value and sometimes even the functionality of what a brand is and does – all in a few words or less.

If you think about it, a marketer must play the role of the psychologist in order to understand what motivates how consumers think, feel, reason, and select between different alternatives.

To dig deeper, the savvy marketer and namer will not only try to understand consumer behaviour,  but will also try to learn the psychology of how the consumer is influenced by his or her environment in the first place, the “cultural discourse” if you will, that motivates his or her decisions at its roots.

Every conscious choice made by a human being, however outwardly rational, is influenced by subconscious perceptions and beliefs. These perceptions and beliefs are shaped by archetypal forces which affect us subconsciously and define how we behave and react with the world around us.

What is an archetype? It is an original model of a person, ideal example, or a prototype upon which others are copied, patterned, or emulated; a symbol universally recognized. In psychology, an archetype is a model of a person, personality, or behaviour.

Examples include the Wise Old Man, The Mother, The Hero, The Child – you get the idea. These figures are often personified in brands, and whether you realize it or not, produce a real emotional impact when we perceive that brand.

Take for example Aunt Jemima: her archetype is The Mammy – perhaps one of the most well-known archetypes of African-American women. The Mammy represents the Southern African-American caretaker, who nurtures and feeds those around her.  No mere coincidence that Quaker Oats decided to make The Mammy its trademark back in 1893, although Aunt Jemima pancake mix debuted in 1889.

Quaker was on to something. Aunt Jemima embodied an early-twentieth-century idealized domesticity that was inspired by old southern hospitality. She extracts positive emotions of warmth and comfort, and down-home cookin’, perfectly aligned with the feelings one would attribute to fluffy pancakes and syrup.

Over time, Aunt Jemima became synonymous with that breakfast tradition. You instinctually pick up a bottle of her brand when you go to the store, not bothering to look at alternatives.

What other famous archetypes come to mind when thinking of your favourite brands?


See Andris Pone’s comment on Gomu, a collectible toy, in today’s edition of the National Post:

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