Public Media Policybase

With RFP, PBS pursues ‘Explorer Archetype’ in productions

From PBS’s June 2010 request for primetime series proposals to be funded by the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund. See also Current feature on the Explorer Archetype.

The Explorer Archetype

Research shows the most successful brands embody a single archetype. To define and fully leverage PBS’s brand, we are employing Archetypal Branding, a proven strategy in which an organization aligns all activities behind a single unifying concept. We believe adopting this strategy will help us increase audience engagement, raise money and build brand loyalty.

What are Archetypes?

Archetypes are universally recognized images or themes found in art, literature, myths, legends and stories. People are intuitively drawn to archetypes, no matter where they encounter them.

In Archetypal Branding, the archetype that most closely aligns with a brand’s most compelling value is used to guide the organization’s decision-making, products, services and identity. For example, although Disney has a wide range of products and services, its brand consistently reflects The Magician archetype. Other examples include Harley Davidson, which embodies The Outlaw; Oprah Winfrey, The Sage; and Johnson & Johnson, The Caregiver.

PBS’s Archetype: The Explorer

Eighteen months of extensive consumer research and brand analysis determined PBS, at its best, embodies The Explorer archetype. In three independent research studies, we learned PBS’s most compelling value is that our content and services offer everyone, from every walk of life, opportunities to explore new worlds and new ideas and broaden personal horizons, especially in ways that might otherwise not be possible. Research shows this is an important motivator for the people who support us. Commercial brands embodying The Explorer archetype include Amazon.com, Trader Joe’s and Apple; public service brands include the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution.

Applying Archetypal Branding at PBS

PBS must wholly and consistently embody the spirit, attitude and characteristics of The Explorer archetype in everything we do – content, education services, ventures, development (major and individual giving and corporate support) and marketing, promotion and communications.

Research shows many PBS viewers have values and characteristics similar to those embodied by The Explorer. Moreover, while people respond to all archetypes, particular archetypes resonate most during certain life stages. Adults ages 40-65 strongly associate with Explorer sensibilities because their careers and families are established, allowing them to seek new opportunities for growth and fulfillment. Research shows this group also donates at a higher level than older Americans.

The Explorer Archetype and “Be more”

“The Explorer” is PBS’s internal shorthand to refer to the archetype; it is not a tagline or a campaign and does not replace “Be more.” Our research shows “Be more” is the ideal tagline for an Explorer brand. We use the archetype to sharpen the focus of the “Be more” campaign and deliver value messages that are even more meaningful, memorable and engaging. This work helps strengthen the foundation for inspiring individual financial support of PBS stations.

Characteristics of The Explorer

Here is a closer look at characteristics of The Explorer archetype:

This is Explorer This is Not
Does it provide an “Explorer experience?” - Provides an immersive experience, transporting audiences to other times and places

- Deeply experiential – almost physical

- Engages audiences in exciting and engaging ways that leverage the power of humanity and emotion

- Assumes an audience of eager “students” passively awaiting information

- Like textbook material, delivered electronically

- Sacrifices or interrupts experience for the sake of instructing the audience

Does it leverage the richness of the Explorer experience? - Provides multiple perspectives or a multi-faceted experience

- Offers textured experiences

- Takes unexpected turns and provides surprising discoveries

- Innovative and ground breaking

- Diminishes experiences with too many facts and details

- Cerebral, but not experiential

- Follows a linear trajectory, with few surprises along the way

- Derivative or familiar

Does it fully embody the Explorer’s independence? - Fiercely independent, presenting clearly reasoned points of view

- Spirited and exciting debates

- Courageous in pursuit of the truth

- Reflects a commitment to uncompromising integrity

- Could be just another channel, program or story
Does it provide an Explorer experience for everyone? - Offers stimulating content that everyone can enjoy

- Smart and unpretentious

- Appreciates the limitations of the audience’s time and attention

- So challenging it feels like work; obtuse

- Projects an elitist attitude or tone

- Misses the opportunity to connect and engage

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