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.
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.
Expressive, original, and imaginative
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
Naturally determined and focused
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
Unconventional with a cutting-edge approach
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
Appreciative, compassionate, and committed
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
Fear: Being unloved
Strategy: To be desired
Examples: Godiva, Victoria’s Secret, Hallmark
Empathetic, unpretentious, and resilient
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
Intelligent, knowledgeable, and reflective
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
Independent, authentic, and curious
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
Idealistic, optimistic, and hopeful
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
Confident, competent, and responsible
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
Playful, spontaneous, and humorous
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
Strategy: Be curious, playful, and fun
Examples: Old Spice, Geico, M&M’s
Compassionate, nurturing, and dedicated
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
Intuitive, insightful, and inspiring
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
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.