The Archetype Behind the Brand: Dan Barber - Making a difference through dining
Dan Barber’s professional remit goes far beyond the stove. A TED talker and commentator on food and agricultural policies, the American chef is a culinary innovator as well as a complicated character.
Described as an activist as often as a chef, Barber aspires to make an impact on what we want to eat. At times placing in front of his customers nothing more than a rack of raw vegetables, freshly-dug at his family’s organic farm, the menus at his two Blue Hill restaurants beg the question: Can you taste the difference?
And whether you can or not, this provocation is where his brand differentiation lies.
Because ultimately we could eat raw vegetables at home. No amount of magical waving of even the most celebrated chef’s hand can make them taste more delicious. Which brings us to why people go to his restaurant: Because they’re buying into his story.
“It’s about what it represents”
“They’re simple plates. It’s about what it represents,” he tells us. “I want people to leave feeling like they’ve connected with nature.”
Barber wants to change everyday eating by bringing something new to the table - only the best, locally-grown, seasonal and sustainable produce. Or to simplify it: ethical eating.
“His goal is to change the community and ultimately the world. It’s a very different place for a chef to be in,” says a food critic of Barber on the Netflix show, Chef’s Table. “He’s trying to get you to experience food in a new way.”
Finishing up a team meeting with his staff on the show, Barber outright commands them: “Let’s go do some good!”
So it may not be surprising that in this week’s edition of Bang’s blog series on the Netflix hit show, Chef’s Table, which features Barber in episode 2, our team chose to cast the most votes for the Idealist archetype as that best fitting Barber.
It’s a character-type Barber fits into quite neatly, and has cultivated, despite his complexities. This makes his story that bit easier to comprehend and connect with and also that bit more compelling.
Like The Idealist, the New York Chef appears to be motivated by the idea that a better world is possible and that through his work, he can inspire others to seek it too. He has an unrelenting work ethic (some would say too unrelenting!), motivated by a desire to achieve positive change and to debunk popular myths around eating and farming.
The next most frequently voted-for archetype for Barber by the Bang team was The Magician.
This is because like The Magician, Barber desires to “understand the fundamental laws of the universe”. Having worked hard to do so, he uses his in-depth understanding of the science of how food grows to improve the taste of his vegetables and livestock, tantalising the palates of his clientele in the process. Magician-like, Barber lives by a vision and dreams enormous dreams while at the same time looking to transform the earthly plane for good.
Not so straightforward
Of course, as with many of the clients we work for, determining which archetype best suits their personality is not a totally straight forward exercise. Some of our team saw Barber as “arrogant”, “too passive to be an Idealist”, or more of a Lover than anything else.
While there are certainly elements of a range of archetypes in Barber, as with many of the brands we interact with, ultimately at Bang we understand the need to select an archetype that resonates most authentically with the character themselves and their audience - or else risk producing brand communications that seem inauthentic and out-of-synch from our core personality.
What do you think? Join the conversation by sharing and commenting.
Up next week: Argentina’s Francis Mallman, master of open-fire grilling, and featured chef in episode 3 of Chef’s Table.
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