Brand Archetypes: The Sage
Written by Lily Tillman
In our archetype exploration journey so far, we have featured the Explorer archetype and the Creator archetype–two very inventive, think-outside-the-box, “right-brained” types. In honor of the new decade, we’re taking things in a slightly different direction–all the way to the left–with the Sage archetype.
The sage archetype overview
The Sage archetype revolves around knowledge and truth. For the Sage, the key to success is collecting information and relentlessly pursuing the truth. This particular archetype believes that by gathering reliable, factual information and sharing it with others, we can make the world a better place. It’s common for Sage brands to have raised levels of awareness, and to avoid uncertainty, misinformation, misleading assertions, and naïveté–in others and/or in itself.
While normally a driving characteristic, the Sage’s infinite quest for absolute truth could additionally result in “analysis paralysis”–thus preventing the Sage from ever taking any action.
PROMISE: The truth will set you free.
CORE DESIRE: The discovery of truth
GOAL: To use intelligence to understand the world
FEAR: Being deceived; ignorance
STRATEGY: Seek out information; understand processes
MOTIVATION: Independence and fulfillment
The sage archetype in action
Sage brands are considered “experts.” These brands inform consumers and guide them towards making the right decisions. Oprah Winfrey, Harvard University, Mayo Clinic, The New York Times, and CNN are all examples of Sage brands that consider themselves to be leaders and enlighteners in the midst of a confusing, and often deceptive, world.
Any company that finds value in analysis and advancement, the possession of knowledge, or distributing information can easily call themselves a Sage. Examples include news sources, institutions of higher education, research firms, bookstores, museums, and libraries.
Brands that identify with the Sage archetype regularly use perfected and refined marketing materials–they don’t try to impress with unnecessary or elaborate additives. Sage brands tend to lean towards neutral or muted color palettes–gray, navy, or white–for their designs and logos. Some Sage brands create marketing materials that deviate from the status quo in an attempt to make people see things in a notable way.
Sage brands never “dumb down” their marketing, as that could be perceived as an insult to the intellect of their target customers. Instead, a Sage focuses on education, information, and sometimes exclusivity. (Example: Ivy League colleges–not everyone makes the cut and only an elite few receive that very special acceptance letter).
Levels of the sage archetype
Each of the 12 archetypes has a series of levels. The lower the level, the less advanced the brand is. The higher the level, the more developed the brand is.
Level 1: Administering a hunt for absolute truth by looking to specialists to provide explanations and objectivity.
Level 2: Aiming to become an expert through critical thinking and analysis.
Level 3: Achieving expert status through knowledge and a high level of belief in one’s field of expertise.
Examples of sage Brands
From the site: “Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally.” Harvard’s dedication to knowledge and analysis makes them a perfect example of the Sage brand archetype.
From the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) site: “We’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.” TED’s mission, “Spread Ideas,” embodies everything about the Sage brand archetype. Enjoy this TED Talk on Knowledge.
Mayo Clinic’s mission aligns flawlessly with the Sage archetype values: “To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.”
Is Your Brand a Sage?
If your brand puts knowledge, truth, and research above all else, then it falls directly in line with the Sage archetype. If you feel your brand doesn’t fall in line with the Sage, you can read more about the remaining 11 brand archetypes to learn where you fit in.