• Abigail Sullivan

What can Star Wars teach us about Segmentation?

Updated: May 16, 2019

Written by Jake Hansen.

Research team member Jake Hansen examines the cross-functional teachings from the Star Wars trilogy to be applied towards consumer segmentation.


The best brands tell the best stories. But a company’s brand story is not about the brand, or even the CEO’s intentions for the brand; no, a company’s brand story is based on consumer’s perception. One of the only things that matters is how consumers perceive a brand. Most often, we see marketers struggling to understand their consumers and to find a one-size-fits-all message strategy to best speak to them. We posit that brands should consider weaving its’ various target consumer personas into the crafting of its own story.

Make no mistake- nearly everyone believes that they are the absolute center of the universe, that’s natural. What those same individuals often miss is that we as people are the center of our own stories. Everyone and everything else lives in a different part of our individual stories. So, how can your brand become a positive part of each consumer’s individual story? It’s quite simple; understand your consumer’s story and apply it to your own.

Okay, maybe it's not that simple.

Let’s use an example to explain the concept of understanding and applying consumer stories to a greater, brand centric story. Star Wars is an example of a great story that nearly everyone is familiar with. Even decades after the original movies, this story is still beloved by many and will endure time the same way other great mythical stories have. Joseph Campbell discovered in his 1949 novel The Hero with a Thousand Faces, that all great stories, no matter the culture or era, share similar character types. These prototypical characters pop up so often because they embody relevant life philosophies that all people can connect to. These characters are known as archetypes.

The Star Wars trilogy has earned its fame through the use of archetypal characters in the various plotlines. Even if you have never seen Star Wars, you know who Yoda is and the personality that the character embodies. People know about Han Solo, they know about Jabba the Hutt, and they know about Luke and Leia. Viewers gravitate towards the characters that embody their own personal life philosophies.

Archetypes are half of the puzzle: applying life philosophies to stories that people relate to. The question remains, however, how can a brand identify with characters and the life philosophies that one’s consumer base deeply relates to?

Enter System 1 market research.

Leveraging System 1 in developing a brand story provides a deeper level understanding of consumer personas that traditional techniques cannot. Traditional consumer segmentation tools use batteries of quantitative scales that constrain the range of emotional and non-conscious responses. Often when building a brand story based off of individual consumers archetypes, these quantitative scales fall flat.

Segmentation tools are used by marketers to identify a “standard” set of personalities that campaigns can target. Effective segmentation tools combine advanced behavioral science with supportive quantitative metrics to tell the entire emotional story. One popular tool to do so is Metaphor Elicitation, an exercise that allows researchers to access the true thoughts and feelings of consumers around any given subject. This technique can be applied to many different domains ranging from understanding brand relationships to discovering emotional benefits generated by product use.

At Protobrand, we apply archetypes to segmentation using the Metaphor Elicitation technique.

The most common framework that we apply to uncover segment archetypes is John Gottman’s Life Philosophy Archetypes. These archetypes are based on emotional command systems and behavior. One’s thoughts and actions then define one into a particular archetype. This framework consists of seven unique archetypes:


Let’s apply these life philosophy archetypes to the characters that we know and love: the characters of Star Wars.


Every brand tries to tell a great story. But to tell a great story, one needs to learn from other great stories.

Star Wars is a contemporary myth that applies these learned archetypal characters to a modern story. It is a great story because it has learned from great stories. It has compelling characters for people to relate to.

Joseph Campbell sought to understand the similarities of stories told around the world. He found that different people, who were distant not only in location but even in time, had somehow created identical characters. How could it be possible that peoples who had never met had created characters that were so similar? They all maintained the principle of relating to people. Characters that people could relate to are what separated the stories that last still today and those that were forgotten. These characters that show up time and time again are known as archetypes.

Characters that embody relevant life philosophies are the ones that people cling to. You might relate to the wise sage because you’re undefeated on Words with Friends. Or you might relate to the adventuring hero because last night you actually picked up that pizza instead of just ordering delivery. The point is that great stories, the ones that people love, understand the strength of strong archetypes.

Every person is the protagonist of their own story. To establish a brand’s story, the company must listen to and understand the stories of their target consumers- however unique they may be in their own right. What is the archetypical consumer like? What is the life philosophy of the target consumer base? How does the consumer’s story fit into the brand story?

To help answer these questions, feel free to reach out to speak to a member of our research team, or download one of our recent case studies exploring the benefits of using System 1 segmentation techniques in your next market research project.

#Segmentation #qualitativeresearch

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