Six Archetypes For Positioning Your Community

Ed BurghardArchetypes are organizational constructs that help describe the underlying structure of how things work.  In marketing, the most commonly used archetypes are base on Carl Jung’s research. Dr. Jung’s 12 archetypes provide insight into the behaviors of consumers.  However, archetypes can also be used to describe strategic structures and have been a highly useful tool for designing hogh-performance organizations.

I decided it would be interesting to explore the use of archetypes to help better understand the different ways communities can win the competition for capital attraction.  Hopefully it will give you a new lens to evaluate your community’s strategic branding plan.  You’ll want to identify which archetype best fits your community’s approach, and which best represents your competition’s.  Understanding these archetypes  should help you define effective strategies to better compete.


Archetype 1

Invest behind a single, key driver of choice in the target industry.  This archetype can be effective with industries with very clear and stable drivers of choice.  Locations that successfully employ this archetype typically have a strong industry leader doing business in their community.

“Houston, we have a problem”, no city can cost effectively compete with you for aerospace company attraction. Houston employs Archetype 1 thinking exceptionally well by focusing on promoting the asset configuration created over the years to support NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Archetype 2

Bring together two seemingly conflicting ideas.  It can be successfully pursued if the location can convincingly remove the need for a trade-off decision.  The key challenge is to illustrate how these two conflicting ideas can actually work together to the company’s benefit.

The state of Ohio employed Archetype 2 thinking with their “State of Perfect Balance” brand promise.  The state recognized business executives typically had to trade off between personal and professional success.  Ohio’s positioning promised the opportunity to achieve both.

Archetype 3

Commoditize the historical key drivers of choice and establish a new set of selection criteria.  Communities that do not have the traditional assets to compete, but believe there is another way to deliver the desired business results for a company might consider this strategy.  Historically well-established locations will find it a challenge to compete with this reframing.

Access to skilled labor, supply chain support and logistics were historical key drivers of site selection decisions in the automotive manufacturing business.  Tennessee and other southern states used Archetype 3 thinking and reframed the decision by focusing on the importance of land availability and labor cost (right-to-work).  These were assets Tennessee had that Northern states found challenging to match, and allowed the state to be highly competitive for foreign automotive industry investment.

Archetype 4

Turn a disadvantage into an advantage.  This requires a community to acknowledge that what they have been trying to accomplish has failed.  It requires the creation and strategic support of a new brand promise.

Steamboat Springs, Colorado is located in the middle of the Rockies.  Ranching and mining were the only industries that could historically prosper in the area.  The mountains and the white water rapids of the Yampa River make logistics a major challenge manufacturing companies.  But, in the 1960’s the community leadership of Steamboat Springs use Archetype 4 thinking and made a decision to support creation of a ski resort that turned the mountains from a disadvantage into an advantage.  Steamboat Springs is now a world-renowned location for skiing, and is currently employing Archetype 1 to sustain economic development.

Archetype 5

Solve a key industry pain point.  By providing a solution to an industry’s business problem, you put your community in a position to be competitive.

Columbus, Ohio is a city with a concentration of manufacturing companies.  Proximity to the U.S. market has been a competitive advantage for companies located in there.  However, with the growing need of companies to serve global markets the location advantage was at risk of eroding.  Leadership in Columbus, decided to leverage Archetype 5 thinking and support the creation of the Rickenbacker Inland Port, a multimodal logistics center to successfully address the emerging industry pain point.

Archetype 6

Invest in a decision driver that is unexpected for the industry.  This requires out-of-the-box thinking that can be translated into a new, bold and big idea.

In the 1950’s, North Carolina was experiencing a deteriorating economic base.  In 1959, a group of leaders established a vision to leverage the capabilities of its research Universities and create a ready physical infrastructure that would attract research-focused companies.  They used Archetype 6 thinking to build the now famous Research Triangle Park.


There is no single right archetype for a place brand.  The value of understanding archetypes is to stimulate thinking about your community’s competitive positioning.  Are you positioning your assets in the best way to be competitive?  If you feel your community is “stuck in the middle”, is there a way to break loose from the pack of typical competitors and chart a way forward that provides your community a competitive advantage?  Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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