Brand Archetypes - Astute Communications

Discovering Brand Archetypes 

It’s no secret that the savviest marketers use psychology to influence consumer behavior. And why not? All is fair in love and war. Over the last century, competition for all industries has grown so fierce that marketing professionals have needed to develop an impressive bag of tricks just to keep up – let alone succeed in their efforts.

The art of branding, without a doubt, sits atop this bag of tricks. While it is possible for businesses in small markets to succeed without effective branding, it has become increasingly unlikely. The current commercial landscape seems to be evolving into a winner-take-all monoculture, as markets in various industries grow and consolidate in an almost monopolistic fashion.

For most businesses, building brand equity is their only hope of survival.


Brand Equity

Simply put, brand equity refers to how people perceive a business. It has less to do with a product or service and everything to do with company culture. It is quite possibly the most valuable asset a business can have. Brand equity should be guarded with a similar fervor that early humans must have had when protecting fire – as if their livelihood depended on it.

Who are you?

The answer to this question is the singular vision that breathes life into all ensuing questions. Developing a clearly defined brand that elicits a powerful emotional connection with your intended audience is the absolute goal of branding. Companies like Amazon, Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola have refined the process of branding with an elegant and artful approach.

It’s totally seamless. We aren’t even aware of it on a conscious level. Such high-level brand messaging has the power to demonstrate who we are and everything that we wish to become with a single, carefully crafted image.

Masterful branding transcends the narrow mindedness of transactions and enters the realm of the subconscious. People don’t think twice about throwing their hard-earned money at the aforementioned companies for a simple reason – they identify with their branding on a deep, psychological level.

This sort of branding is like storytelling. It taps into time-honored mythologies that have been ingrained in us since birth. Humans relate to stories, so what better way to captivate their imaginations (and acquire their money) than through storytelling?


12 Brand Archetypes

Borrowing generously from Jungian archetypes, marketers have created a model for developing brand identity. Carl Jung was one of the most influential psychiatrists who ever lived. His theory of archetypes has had a profound impact on the way we understand the world, the way we tell stories, and the way marketers go about developing a brand.

Jungian archetypes refer to vague forms that evoke relatable images and motifs. These shapes are molded by history, culture, and personal experience. They are specific enough to be personal, and vague enough to be universal.

Mother. Child. King. Journey.

Despite the fact that these words illicit approximately 7 billion varieties of personal reference, they carry with them an acute universality. This can be called upon to solidify brand messaging. Heady stuff? You bet. Useful? Absolutely.

So without further delay, let’s dig a little deeper into the 12 Brand Archetypes.


Meeting Your Brand Archetypes

Here is an overview of the 12 brand archetypes. Together, they cover just about every personality type and can appeal to nearly any audience. The key to successful branding is in careful archetype selection and consistent messaging. Attempting to speak to everyone is ill advised. It is far more effective to speak very clearly to a smaller demographic.

Business loyalty is about exclusivity. It’s only a club if everyone isn’t invited. Humans don’t want to be like everyone else. We want to be different. We want to stand out. But we also want to connect. Brand archetypes help to clarify and maintain a sense of belonging that we all so desperately long for.

Choosing an archetype can be a lot harder than it sounds. It’s difficult to go back once you’ve made a decision. For example, Harley Davidson (clearly an Outlaw) is unlikely to start selling family-friendly minivans to soccer moms. It wouldn’t make sense. Their audience would be bewildered. Just like McDonald’s will never be a viable candidate for receiving a Michelin Star.

Know your audience. But first, let’s get to know the archetypes.


The Creator

Expressive, original, and imaginative


Creator Brand Archetype - Crayola


The Creator’s fundamental desire is to create something of lasting value. Brands that encourage self-expression, choice, and innovation personify the Creator archetype. Their messaging is imaginative and encouraging.

Goal: Turn ideas into reality

Desire: Create the perfect product or service

Fear: Creative block

Strategy: Use creativity to solve problems

Examples: YouTube, Crayola, Sony


The Hero

Naturally determined and focused


Hero Brand Archetype - Nike


The Hero displays courage by enduring what is difficult in order to make the world a better place. This is done through exemplifying mastery and overcoming adversity. Hero brands strive to help by addressing social problems and encouraging people to take action.

Goal: Improve the world

Desire: To prove worth through courageous acts

Fear: Weakness, vulnerability, and fear

Strategy: Motivate and encourage bravery

Examples: Nike, Red Cross, Army


The Outlaw

Unconventional with a cutting-edge approach


Rebel Brand Archetype - Harley Davidson


The Outlaw is a rebel. They are all about revolution and destroying the status quo. These brands have values that are at odds with those of the majority. They seek to blaze new trails with their revolutionary attitudes.

Goal: Overthrow what isn’t working

Desire: Be revolutionary

Fear: Being powerless

Strategy: Shake things up

Examples: MTV, Harley Davidson, Howard Stern


The Lover

Appreciative, compassionate, and committed


Lover Brand Archetype - Godiva


More than anything in the whole wide world, the Lover wants to experience intimacy and sensual pleasure. Through different levels of relationship with the people around them, Lover brands help people find love and friendship through beauty, communication, and closeness.

Goal: Loving and committed relationships

Desire: Connection

Fear: Being unloved

Strategy: To be desired

Examples: Godiva, Victoria’s Secret, Hallmark


The Citizen

Empathetic, unpretentious, and resilient


Citizen Brand Archetype - Wrangler


The Citizen wants nothing more than to belong, fit in, and connect with others. The Citizen archetype is evident in brands that have a down-to-earth culture. They seek to create things that are used in everyday life, and desire to help people feel that they belong.

Goal: To belong

Desire: Being dependable and trustworthy

Fear: Being left out

Strategy: To be a down-to-earth, straight shooter

Examples: Budweiser, Wrangler, Blake Shelton


The Sage

Intelligent, knowledgeable, and reflective


Sage Brand Archetype - New York Times

The Sage is guided by a search for the truth. These brands use intelligence and analysis to comprehend the world around them. Look at brands that are thought leaders in their industries, providing expertise and encouraging people to think.

Goal: Understand the world through intelligence and analysis

Desire: To find the truth

Fear: Appearing ignorant

Strategy: Seeking out information and knowledge

Examples: New York Times, Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University


The Explorer

Independent, authentic, and curious


Explorer Brand Archetype - National Geographic


The Explorer wants the freedom to discover the world, with a genuine desire to experience a more authentic and fulfilling life. In addition to being non-conformist, Explorer brands want to help people feel free. They are pioneering and offer products and services that appear sturdy and rugged.

Goal: To live an exciting and fulfilling life

Desire: To have the freedom to explore and discover

Fear: Feeling trapped

Strategy: Take the road less traveled

Examples: REI, National Geographic, Jeep


The Innocent

Idealistic, optimistic, and hopeful


Innocent Brand Archetype - Coca-Cola


The motto of the Innocent could be summed up as: don’t worry, be happy. They desire to find and experience paradise. Idealistic brands that are associated with morality, goodness, and nostalgia are identified as Innocent archetypes.

Goal: To be happy

Desire: Love, peace, and happiness for all

Fear: Being punished for wrongdoing

Strategy: Do the right thing and be optimistic

Examples: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Volkswagen


The Ruler

Confident, competent, and responsible


Ruler Brand Archetype - Verizon Wireless


The Ruler is all about control. They want to create a successful and prosperous family, company, or community. Ruler traits are evident in brands that promote power. Helping people get and stay organized, as well as promising safety and stability are hallmarks of the Ruler archetype.

Goal: Create prosperity and success

Desire: To have control

Fear: Chaos and being overthrown

Strategy: Exercise power and influence

Examples: Verizon, Microsoft, Rolls Royce


The Jester

Playful, spontaneous, and humorous


Jester Brand Archetype - Old Spice


The Jester is akin to the class clown from high school. They want a life full of enjoyment helping people have a great time – lightening up the world. Behind the playful laughter, you will see brands that help people enjoy life by embracing a fun-loving and freewheeling culture.

Goal: Bring laughter, fun, and joy to the world

Desire: To enjoy life while having fun

Fear: Boredom

Strategy: Be curious, playful, and fun

Examples: Old Spice, Geico, M&M’s


The Caregiver

Compassionate, nurturing, and dedicated


Caregiver Brand Archetype - Campbell's


The goal of the Caregiver is to protect people from harm. They enjoy going the extra mile to help others. Brands that serve families and concentrate on providing excellent customer service exemplify classic Caregiver archetype traits.

Goal: Help others

Desire: To care, protect, and nurture

Fear: Neglect and instability

Strategy: Help others

Examples: Salvation Army, Campbell’s, Mother Teresa


The Magician

Intuitive, insightful, and inspiring


Magician Brand Archetype - Disney


The Magician makes dreams come true by using knowledge of how the world works. Magician brands are transformative. It’s not uncommon for them to display traits that have a spiritual or psychological element. They want to expand our collective consciousness.

Goal: To turn dreams into reality

Fear: Unintended negative consequences

Strategy: Create a unique vision and live by it

Examples: Disney, TED, MAC Cosmetics


The Takeaway

With any luck, this brief overview of the 12 brand archetypes has been illuminating and thought-provoking. This stuff is easy to overlook amidst the day-to-day operations of running a business – but it’s crucial. The most successful businesses go to great lengths to refine their brand messaging. It doesn’t happen on accident.

Developing a hyper-focused brand bridges the gap between business and consumer by allowing you to speak directly to the heart of your intended audience. The 12 brand archetypes are an excellent starting point when venturing down the branding rabbit hole. Contact Astute if you’re ready to begin your journey to the heart of your brand. We love to explore.