Tourism Marketing: How Archetypes Can Help Create Authenticity

group of lake tahoe tourists toasting in a restaurant

Tell a Story to Create a Connection in Tourism Marketing

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away they all lived happily ever after.

As human beings, we crave stories because we’re brought-up on them. They’re how we communicate with one another. So, it’s only natural that we want to connect with a place, an idea, or a brand through a story. And, an essential element of a story is a strong cast of characters based on commonly understood archetypes: “The Hero,” “The Caregiver,” “The Lover,” “The Rebel.”

As marketers, brand makers and designers, we can use this innate, human need for stories, characters, and connection as a powerful ally. Often, we see brands singularly leverage archetypes. Trader Joe‘s is “The Every Person,” embodying a belief in equality and community. TED is “The Magician,” working to transform your ideas and point of view.

But, what if your brand is more than one archetype? What if it takes several of these universal characters to create a personified version of your organization. What if it takes a combination of many?

That’s the situation we at SJ Marketing explored as we created a new campaign for the Carson Valley Visitors Authority (CVVA). The agency is the designated tourism marketing organization for Gardnerville, Genoa, Minden, and Topaz Lake — four rustic Nevada communities rich in culture located south and east of Lake Tahoe. As we developed a strategy for the CVVA, we sought to answer a couple fundamental questions: Why do people come to the Carson Valley? What motivates them?

Get Inspiration from People Who Live There

To find the answers, I hit the road with Cathy Davis, the brand manager on the account. We visited different businesses and museums, talking to everyday people about their experiences.

Our takeaway was that there are a lot of reasons you would want to visit Carson Valley—none of which scream at you as you’re driving through town. There were exceptional experiences hidden behind ordinary exteriors. You had to find them.

Bring Archetypes Together to Strengthen the Story

As we began to develop the “Find Your Wild” tourism marketing campaign with the CVVA, it became apparent this uniqueness couldn’t be conveyed with a single archetype such as The Explorer. Instead, we went beyond the most typical 12 Jungian archetypes and looked at the 60 types explored in “Archetypes in Branding: A Toolkit for Creatives and Strategists.”

From those types, we narrowed in on five that truly embodied and connected with the area:

  • The Adventurer: Fearless. Risk taking. Focus. Daring. Spontaneity. Hunger for a new experience.
  • The Athlete: Strength and power. Discipline, Competence. Bravery. Honor. Achievement orientation.
  • The Entrepreneur: Confidence to be led by vision. Talent for innovation. High tolerance for ambiguity and complexity. Skill as a self-starter.
  • The Explorer: Independence. Bravery. Freedom. Self-sufficiency. Nonconformity.
  • The Sovereign: Rank. Tradition. Benevolence. Assumed authority. Inherited responsibility. Nobility. Stability.

These would be our guides to the Carson Valley area — our Legends of the Valley. Then, we set out to find actual people who lived and worked in the Carson Valley and personified those archetypes.

Meet the Archetypes in the Tourism Marketing Campaign

The Explorer: J.T. Humphrey


We captured J.T. Humphrey, a local wildlife and outdoor photographer, in his natural element. Photo Credit: Jeff Dow Photography

The Athlete: Kate Blake


We followed Carson Valley mountain biker Kate Blake as she rode with Mr. Rose in the background. Photo Credit: Jeff Dow Photography

The Sovereigns: J.B. and Marie Lekumberry


We managed to wrangle J.T. Basque Bar & Dining Room owners J.B. and Marie Lekumberry in between Picons and Basque dinners. Photo Credit: Jeff Dow Photography

The Entrepreneur: Dana Gaworski


We pulled up a stool next to Dana Gaworksi, a bartender at Nevada’s oldest watering hole, the Genoa Bar. Photo Credit: Jeff Dow Photography

The Adventurer: Cole Pinther


We snapped SoaringNV pilot Cole Pinther right before he soared into the valley’s azure skies. Photo Credit: Jeff Dow Photography

Each of these Legends of the Valley became archetypes in their own right. And through each of these people, visitors can find their own escort to the Wild Side of Nevada.

–Michael Leonardini, Creative Director, SJ Marketing

Michael is an award-winning designer and creative director with executive management credentials in digital and traditional marketing. He has assisted Fortune 100 corporations in the design of strategic brand identity and integrated brand campaigns. Michael has created national and international marketing and branding programs for world-class consumer and business-to-business organizations for over 20 years.

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