Brand archetypes might sound like the name of a hipster band, but they are powerful tools that can help you develop your brand in ways you never imagined. No matter if you’re a small printing company in South Africa or a giant like McDonald’s, it works.
What are they? How do they work? First, let’s clear up some simple concepts.
What is a brand?
Perhaps we all know what that means, but do you really understand what a brand is? Once you have reflected on it for a moment, continue reading.
You might be one of the few who can describe what a brand is, but most people cannot. A brand is a collection of elements that identify a company and set it apart from the competition. These elements could include logos, colours, and slogans. As a result of new technologies like social media, brands are becoming more complex. Once thought of as simply a colour scheme, a brand has now evolved into a persona that has emotions, quirks, defects, and pet peeves – in short, they are a personification of a company.
What is an archetype?
It’s a bit tricky to explain these, since they’re an abstract concept, but let’s keep it simple. Archetypes are images and concepts that are timeless. It is icons that pervade both the myths and legends of the past, as well as the movies and tv shows of our day.
The term was coined by Carl Jung and he described it as follows:
“[…] forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the Earth as constituents of myths and—at the same time—as individual products of unconscious”.
Additionally, he said:
“The [forms and images] are imprinted and hardwired into out psyches”.
According to Jung, archetypes appear in our dreams and thoughts. As human beings, they explain our deepest longings and needs and help us unravel our subconscious minds. Once we discuss each archetype in more detail, this will become clearer.
Archetypes are primarily utilized in psychology, but have also proved useful in narratives and marketing. With an archetype, a brand can set itself apart from a line of brands that offer the same product. Additionally, archetypes connect them with the subconscious and basic human needs of a target audience. The ability to tap into the psyche of others is powerful.
In total, there are 12 brand archetypes, which are divided into four general human needs. Each archetype represents a specific need that complements the main need.
Archetypes that yearn for Paradise
a) Innocent (wants to be Safe)
With a positive and kind speech, this archetype sees the good in everything. Brands who use this archetype might want to make their costumers feel safe and beautiful on the inside.
Some brands that represent the innocent archetypes are: Nintendo Wii, Coca-Cola, Dove
b) Sage (wants to understand)
The Sage is an archetype that will never know too much. His ultimate goal is to understand all things. Brands that identify with this archetype tend to have a humanist side and want to help those who follow them.
Some brands that represent the Sage archetype are: Google, BBC, Oprah
c) Explorer (wants to be free)
This archetype wants to travel the world and experience everything it has to offer. A brand that has chosen the Explorer as their archetype may offer their clients a chance to escape. Marketing campaigns may revolve around images of far-away places.
Some brands that represent the Explorer archetype are: Corona, Red Bull.
Archetypes that yearn to leave a mark on the world
a) Outlaw (wants to liberate)
An archetype that wants a revolution and is not scared to break the rules to achieve it. These brands tend to cater to misfits and/or people who like living on the edge.
Some brands that represent the Outlaw archetype are: Virgin, Harley-Davidson, Diesel
b) Magician (wants power)
This archetype knows so much that at times it might seem as supernatural. They promise their customers to make their dreams come true by using their impressive skills. It is no wonder that many technology brands use this archetype.
Some brands that represent the Magician archetype are: Apple, Absolute Vodka, Axe
c) Hero (wants to master)
Heroes are brave, selfless, stand up to the bad guy and defend the underdog. Brands that shape themselves after the Hero sell themselves to their customers as the one who is going to rescue them from their woes.
Some brands that represent the Hero archetype are: Snickers, Nike, Ariel.
Archetypes that yearn to connect with others:
a) Lover (wants intimacy)
The lover archetype is an idealist dreaming not only of sensual pleasure but true love as well. A company that identifies itself with this archetype will most likely use suggestive imagery to evoke sensations.
Some brands that represent the Lover archetype are: Häaguen-Dazs, Baileys, Chanel
b) Jester (wants enjoyment)
This archetype is the very definition of a hedonist – Its only mission in life is to enjoy it. A marketing campaign designed for a Jester brand would probably be very funny or at least entertaining. Everyone loves to laugh, that’s why Jesters are some of the most beloved brands or at least have the most memorable ads.
Some brands that represent the Jester archetype are: M&M’s, Old Spice, Budweiser
c) Everyman (wants to belong)
Who’s the everyman (also known as the regular guy/girl)? Well, you look at him/her when you look in the mirror. Brands who identify with the Everyman archetype relate to people on a “real” level. The Everyman marketing campaign usually evolves around everyday life activities and routines. Their message: It is perfectly fine to be normal.
Some brands that represent the Everyman archetype are: IKEA, Kit Kat, Visa
Archetypes that yearn to provide structure to the world
a) Creator (wants to innovate)
Creators (also called builders) are non-conforming by nature, they want to build a better world using the tools at their disposal. A Creator brand will empower its customers to use their creativity by selling them a world of possibilities.
Some brands that represent the Creator archetype: Lego, Adobe, Crayola
b) Ruler (wants to control)
A brand that wants to “Rule them all” will have a narrative that demonstrates why they’re the leader of the industry. These type of brands will suggest to their customers that they can be rulers, too.
Some brands that represent the Ruler archetype are: Microsoft, British Airways, Mercedes-Benz
c) Caregiver (wants to service others)
If the Ruler archetype is your boss then the Caregiver archetype is your parent. They empathise, want to help and protect their clients. Their message tends to be very positive. A Caregiver brand will exude an aura of selflessness.
Some brands that represent the Caregiver archetype are: UNICEF, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz
How will this help my brand?
Creating a marketing strategy based on an archetype will help you define your message and communication strategy. Your brand’s personality will emerge as a result of this creative exercise, which helps you stand out from the crowd.
What would be the archetype of your brand?