In Archetypes, Branding, CultureTalk, Sage

From one Sage Archetype to another…

Le Pain Quotidien sage archetypeRecently, I met a friend for breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien, my office away from home in New York City. Le Pain Quotidien (LPQ) means The Daily Bread. It is a bakery (boulangerie) and a coffee shop (café), modeled after a Provence country home. Located in many urban settings around the world, it has table and counter service and also happens to make a mean “café au lait “ (or “grande latte” in Starbucks-speak). I find it simply delightful.

While I was explaining to my friend how archetypes determine a brand culture, I needed a relevant example; so, I asked if she preferred LPQ or Starbucks.

Taking a bite of her freshly prepared, farm-to-table egg white frittata, she replied, “Oh, LPQ – much better!”

I said, “Me too! If we both like this better, I bet there’s something culturally similar between us and LPQ.”

“I bet it’s a Sage archetype, just like us.”

Sages love to understand the world better and teach others. How is LPQ a sage?

  • On our brightly illuminated farmhouse table we noticed there were recipe books and signs inviting guests to read while they sipped their perfectly brewed bowl of café au lait. It was a “bowl” not a cup because in French country farmhouses café au lait is served in a warm, steaming bowl.
  • There were also school-like chalkboards with messages about upcoming bread making classes and the nutritional values of quinoa salad.
  • There was a fireplace; its mantle full books about Provence. Was this to set the stage for fireside learning or story exchanges? We assumed, yes.
  • Even the “Push” sign on the door taught us how to say that word in five different languages.

Sages seek information through self-reflection, their own research and objectivity.

  • LPQ invites guests to sit comfortably, with free Wi-Fi access, for as long as they would like.
  • It encourages patrons to adopt the Provence lifestyle while in the LPQ “home”.
  • The LPQ philosophy is that “bread is much more than mere sustenance; it’s a way of life…friends gather around…communal tables to share in the time-honored tradition of breaking bread.” This also shows a bit of Everyperson as a sub-archetype, the one that wants everyone to feel included.
  • Time spent at LPQ consists of eating good food, escaping the bustle of the city, and conversing with friends.
  • And as a bonus, if a friend wants to know how to order coffee or say, “Push” in Provence, not-to-be outsmarted Sages know the answer!

Contrast all of this with the Starbucks’ Explorer archetype.

Those of you true-to-self Explorer’s will automatically say Starbucks is better, more authentic, and even more fulfilling. You will pooh-pooh Le Pain Quotidien as being “faux” French. “If I want to be in France, I’ll just go there!”

Starbucks stores are bustling and crowded, full of people making a quick stop for the best coffee in town and lingering just long enough to check the headlines and the latest Twitter trends. There are some who stay for meetings and tolerate bumping and chair stealing to accommodate fellow travelers. After all, these people are escaping from boredom, not seeking reflection. And most of all, they do not want to conform to anything – including the French lifestyle.

Politico recently quoted Starbucks’ spokesperson Jim Olson about the company’s higher education tuition reimbursement program with Arizona State University. In answer to a question about employees’ potential to receive tuition benefits and then leave the company, he said: “…Being part of our company’s unique mission, values and culture is what attracts and ultimately keeps our employees inspired to stay with us…” Choosing your own path and being your own person are very much Explorer traits, and true to Starbucks culture.

The SageWe’re repeat cultural customers

Thinking about all of this with my friend that morning, we realized we were loyal customers of LPQ and we were happy with our choice. We wondered:

Do all authentic brands know their ideal, repeat customers as well as Le Pain Quotidian and Starbucks seem to? Are all customers and prospective employees consciously choosing one brand over another because of the way they emotionally connect with the culture of that brand?

Liking LPQ doesn’t mean that I will not occasionally go to a Starbucks, or even feel affinity with explorers – it may simply mean my first choice is always LPQ because it is where I feel most myself. Its company culture matches my personal culture.

Culture Survey

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