Archetypes are a concept originally conceived and developed by the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.
In marketing, a brand archetype is a genre you assign to your brand, based upon symbolism. The idea behind using brand archetypes is to anchor your brand against something iconic—something already embedded within the conscious and subconscious of humanity. In the minds of both the brand owner and the public, aligning with a brand archetype makes the brand easier to identify.
Brands should be great story-tellers. They should captivate the human soul and move people to take action.
According to Scott Bedbury, Founder and CEO at Brandstream, at the heart of every great brand there should be a compelling story built around an emotive character or personality. While it is important to have a good product or service and a competitive value proposition, it is this very story that provides true, sustainable differentiation and reason for purchase.
The basic notion behind brand archetypes is that brands are a basic human social concept, and that the same patterns and ideas tend to repeat themselves over time, such that what we now consider “brands” are roughly equivalent to archetypal characters in literature, religion, folklore, mythology, etc. They’re a way for us to understand ourselves and affiliate with others, and by associating them with those common themes and characters, we can better understand how consumers connect with brands.
Have you ever considered why is Michael Jordan so motivating or Apple as a company so game-changingly innovative?
Such iconic individuals and brands command our attention because they carry the mythic power of an archetype.
Mythic stories are like bridges that connect people and organizations with the best, most authentic, and most distinctive parts of themselves. Through understanding the archetypal stories that shape values, character, culture, and capacity organizations can create more engaging brands, align managerial direction in ways that attract customers and clarify strategic direction for greater efficiency and effectiveness.
There are 12 archetypes which symbolize a basic human need, aspiration or motivation. An archetype is a human type in its purest form: the classic hero, outlaw, ruler, caregiver, etc. Each type has its own set of values, meanings and personality traits.
The 12 archetypes are the following:
#1 The Innocent
Motto: Free to be you and me
Core desire: To experience paradise
Goal: To be happy
Fear: To be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: To do things right
Strategy: To do things right
Gift: Faith and optimism
Also known as: Utopian, traditionalist, saint, fantaciser, dreamer, romantic, naive and mystic.
The Innocent provides an identity for brands that:
- Offer a simple solution to an identifiable problem are associated with goodness, morality, simplicity, nostalgia or childhood
- Are low or moderately priced are produced by a company with straightforward values need to be differentiated from brands with poor reputations.
#2 The Regular Guy
Motto: All men and women are created equal
Core Desire: To belong, fit in
Fear: To be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: Develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Gift: realism, empathy, lack of pretense
Also known as: The good old boy, the good neighbor, the solid citizen, the common man, everyman, the person next door, the working stiff, the silent majority, the realist.
The Regular Person provides a good identity for brands:
- that give people a sense of belonging
- with an everyday functionality
- with low to moderate prices
- produced by a solid company with a down-home organizational culture
- that need to be differentiated in a positive way from more elitist or higher-priced brands
#3 The Hero
Motto: Where there is a will, there is a way
Core desire: To prove one’s worth through courageous and difficult action
Goal: Expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Fear: Weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Gift: Competence and courage
Also known as: The dragon slayer, the soldier, the competitor, the winning athlete, the warrior, the team player, superhero, fighter, rescuer, crusader.
The Hero could be good for brands:
- that are inventions or innovations that will have a major impact on the world
- that help people be all they can be
- that solve a major social problem or encourage others to do so
- that have a clear opponent you want to beat
- that that are underdogs or challenger brands
- that are strong and help people do tough jobs exceptionally well
- that need to be differentiated from competitors that have problems following through or keeping their promises
- whose customers see themselves as good, upstanding citizens
#4 The Caregiver
Motto: Protect people from harm
Goal: To help others
Fear: Selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: Doing things for others
Gift: Compassion and generosity
Also known as: The supporter, the parent, the devoter, provider, altruist, altruist, helper, offerer, caretaker.
The Caregiver may be right for your brand if:
- it gives customers a competitive advantage
- it supports families (products from fast-food to minivans) or is associated with nurturing (e.g. cookies, teaching materials)
- it serves the public sector, e.g. health care, education, aid programs and other care
- giving fields
- helps people stay connected with and care about others
- helps people care for themselves
- is a non-profit or charitable cause
#5 The Explorer
Motto: Don’t fence me in
Core desire: The freedom to find out who you are through exploring
Goal: To experience a better, more authentic and more fulfilling life
Fear: Getting trapped, conforming and nonbeing
Strategy: Journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Gift: Autonomy, ambition, ability to be true to one’s own soul
Also known as: The ground-breaker, the antihero, individualist, seeker, iconoclast, pilgrim, adventurer, wanderer.
The explorer is a good identity for brands that:
- helps people feel free, nonconformist or pioneering
- is rugged and sturdy or for use in the great outdoors or in dangerous settings
- can be purchased from a catalog or on the Internet
- helps people express their individuality
- can be purchased for consumption on the go
- want to differentiate themselves from a successful regular guy/gal brand or conformist brand
- have an explorer culture that creates new and exciting products or experiences
#6 The Outlaw
Motto: Rules are meant to be broken
Goal: To destroy what is not working
Fear: Being powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: Disrupt, destroy, or shock
Gift: Outrageousness, radical freedom
Also known as: The revolutionary, the enemy, the misfit, the destroyer, the radical, villain.
The Outlaw may strengthen your brand’s identity if it:
- has customers or employees who feel disenfranchised from society
- helps retain values that are threatened by emerging ones, or paves the way for revolutionary new attitudes
- is low to moderately priced
- breaks with industry conventions
#7 The Lover
Motto: I only have eyes for you
Core desire: Intimacy and experience
Goal: Being in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings they love
Fear: Being alone, unwanted and unloved
Strategy: Become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Gift: Passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment
Also known as: The intimate, the seducer, the harmoniser, the sensualist, partner, enthusiast, spouse, team builder.
The Lover may be a good identity for your brand if:
- it helps people belong, find friends or partners
- it’s function is to help people have a good time
- it is low to moderately priced
- it is produced by a freewheeling, fun-loving organisational structure
- it needs to differentiate itself from self-important, overconfident brands
#8 The Creator
Motto: If it can be imagined, it can be created
Core desire: To create things of enduring value
Goal: To realize a vision
Fear: Having a mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: Develop artistic control and skill
Task: To create culture and express own vision
Gift: Creativity and imagination
Also known as: The writer, the entrepreneur, the artist, the visionary, the musician, the master, the inventor, the innovator, the dreamer.
The Creator may be right for your brand identity if:
- it promotes self-expression, gives customers choices and options, helps foster innovation or is artistic in design
- it is in a creative field like marketing, public relations, the arts, or technological innovation
- you want to differentiate it from a “do-it-all” brand that leaves little room for the imagination
- your product has a do-it-yourself aspect that saves money
- your customer has the time to be creative
- your organization has a creative culture
#9 The Ruler
Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing
Core desire: Control
Goal: Create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: Exercise power
Fear: Chaos, being overthrown
Gift: Responsibility, leadership
Also known as: The role model, the controller, the manager, the boss, the king/queen, politician, leader, administrator.
The Ruler may be right for your brand identity if:
- it is a high-status product used by powerful people to enhance their power
- it makes people more organized
- it offers a lifetime guarantee
- it empowers people to maintain or enhances their grip on power
- it has a regulatory or protective function
- is moderately to high priced
- you want to differentiate it from more populist brands or one that is a clear leader in the field
- it is a market leader that offers a sense of security and stability in a chaotic world
#10 The Magician
Motto: It can happen!
Core desire: Understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: To make dreams come true
Fear: Unanticipated negative consequences
Strategy: Develop a vision and live it
Gift: Finding win-win outcomes
Also known as: The charismatic, transformer, visionary, catalyst, inventor, leader, healer, medicine man.
The Magician could be the right identity for your brand if:
- the product or service is transformative
- its implicit promise is to transform customers
- it has a new-age quality
- it is consciousness-expanding
- it is user-friendly
- has spiritual connotations
- it is a very new, contemporary product
- it is medium- to high-priced
#11 The Sage
Motto: The truth will set you free
Core desire: To discover the truth
Goal: To use intelligence and analysis to understand the world
Fear: Being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: Seek out information and knowledge
Gift: Wisdom, intelligence
Also known as: The wise man, the expert, the researcher, the scholar, the manager, the mentor, the planner, the philosopher, the detective, the thinker.
The Sage would be a good identity for brands:
- that provide expertise or information to customers
- that encourage customers to think
- that are based on new scientific findings or esoteric knowledge
- that are supported by research-based facts
- want to differentiate themselves from others whose quality or performance is suspect
#12 The Jester
Motto: You only live once
Core desire: To live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: To have a great time and lighten up the world
Fear: Being bored or boring others
Strategy: Play, make jokes, be funny
Also known as: The spontaneous, the player, the entertainer, the fool, the joker, the comedian.
The Jester may be a good identity for brands:
- that give people a sense of belonging
- that help people have a good time
- that are low or moderately priced
- that are produced by a fun-loving company
- that need to be differentiated from self-important, overconfident established brands
Some of the most meaningful brands have tapped universal archetypes. These brands stand for something powerful to the consumers who purchase them and remain loyal to them for years.
The best brands narrow to one or two archetypes. Without narrowing, a brand is trying to be all things to all people. It ends up standing for nothing. When brands stand for nothing, the only way they can compete is on price.