KARINA LYBURN | Personal Branding Photographer

Brand archetypes: what are they and how can they help you?

Think of your favourite stories. Be they books, films or television series’, which were the stories you loved and really engaged with? Now think of the characters within those stories. The chances are those characters fit into fairly broad categories; the mysterious and seductive femme fatale, the spandex-clad hero back to save the world once again, the girl next door who’s friends with everyone, and the Clint Eastwood type character who always goes his own way and usually wears some sort of fantastic hat (a poncho is also a must)…

For me, it was Sandra Bullock’s character in Miss Congeniality, Gracie Hart was a heroine I could get truly behind; a laugh-snorting, punchbag-punching, ice-cream-scoffing FBI agent, ready to defend the Miss United States pageant. What that says about me, who knows?! But her ordinary-person-doing-extraordinary-things-and-while-I’m-at-it-I’m-not-going-to-apologise-for-who-I-am traits resonated with my eight year old self on some level.

The point is that these aren’t just characters, they’re archetypes.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the term ‘archetypes’ - characters defined by generic traits that explain what they stand for and what motivates their actions. Jung writes that we’re born with an unconscious understanding of behavioural patterns and we recognise them when we see them because they’re rooted in our subconscious - they’re part of our DNA.

So, archetypes don’t just exist within fictional stories and made-up characters, they exist everywhere, yes, you guessed it, even in brands. 

How can knowing your brand’s archetype help you when it comes to marketing a successful business?

You know that connecting with your audience is the name of the game and you also know that in order to do that, your brand needs personality and an effective tone of voice that will resonate with your dream clients. By figuring out which archetype(s) your brand fits into, you’ll have a tangible character that helps build your brand identity by making it accessible and relatable to audiences who share the same values (your ideal clients).

Show me the archetypes!

Carl Jung outlined 12 archetypes that can be applied to characters and brands alike, so let’s take a look. First things first, there are four kinds of motivation: stability / control, learning / freedom, risk / achievement, and belonging.

1. The Caregiver

Motivation: Stability / control - service
Traits: Caring, maternal, nurturing, selfless, generous, compassionate. All about the giving. Caregivers are motivated by compassion and want to make people feel protected, secure and nurtured.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Making people feel safe, helping people to care for themselves, fostering trust
Brand examples: NHS, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz

2. The Ruler

Motivation: Stability / control - provide structure
Traits: Leader, responsible, organised, role model, administrator, clear. Rulers create order from chaos and seek to eliminate uncertainty by taking control. They believe in playing by the rules in order to create stable, and well-respected brands.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Helping people become more organised, restore order, create more stability and security in a chaotic world
Brand examples: Rolex, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft

3. The Creator

Motivation: Stability / control - innovation
Traits: Creative, imaginative, artistic, inventive, entrepreneur, non-conformist. As Butch Cassidy would say, “Boy I got vision and the rest of the world wears bi-focals.” Creators have a vision of the way they feel the world should be. They crave authenticity, innovation and freedom of expression and aim to enable creativity in others.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Inspiring customers to express themselves and create, fostering imagination, fusing technology with artistry
Brand examples: Adobe, Apple, Lego

4. The Innocent

Motivation: Learning / freedom - to be happy
Traits: Strives to be good, pure, young, optimistic, simple, moral, loyal. The Innocent looks at the world and sees wonder and fun at every turn, and aims to share that good feeling with others through their work.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Spreading purity and joy in a cynical world and building innocent brands founded on simplicity that are seen as hones and with good virtues
Brand examples: Dove, Innocent, Aveeno

5. The Sage

Motivation: Learning / freedom - to share wisdom and insight
Traits: Knowledgeable, reliable, wisdom and intelligence, thoughtful, analytical, mentor, guru, advisor. The Sage is driven by the desire for truth and knowledge and how to use both to make the world a better place.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Help people better understand the world, provide practical information, earning respect through intellectualism
Brand examples: TED, Google, BBC

6. The Explorer

Motivation: Learning / freedom - finding fulfilment through discovery
Traits: Restless, adventurous, ambitious, individualistic, independent, pioneering. Explorers are independent thinkers, finding inspiration in travel, risk and discovery. They’re often individualist in outlook but their vision inspires followers to join them on their journey. Explorers seek freedom and to change the world they inhabit with trailblazing philosophy.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Inspiring change by blazing their own trail, authentically encouraging others to find their inner explorer, hungry for discovery and excitement
Brand examples: NASA, Jeep, The North Face

7. The Magician 

Motivation: Risk / achievement - make dreams come true and create something special
Traits: Visionary, charismatic, imaginative, idealistic, spiritual. Magicians amaze and transform on any scale, they answer your prayers and make your problems disappear.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Help people transform their world, inspire change, expand consciousness, turn problems into solutions
Brand examples: Disney, Dyson, Coca-Cola

8. The Outlaw (Clint Eastwood)

Motivation: Risk / achievement - to break the rules
Traits: Rebellious, iconoclastic, wild, lone wolf. Sometimes also known as ‘The Rebel’, free-thinking Outlaws actively seek to rip up the rulebook. They seek to undermine the status quo so  that people question it, search for better alternatives and, you guessed it, find the Outlaw with all the answers they’ve been looking for. Outlaws typically inspire the strongest brand loyalty.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Agent of change, advocate for the disenfranchised, allow people to vent or break with conventions, rock ‘n’ roll, promoting brand loyalty.
Brand examples: Harley Davidson, Amazon, Diesel

9. The Hero

Motivation: Risk / achievement - to help to improve the world
Traits: Courageous, bold, honourable, strong, confident, inspirational. Don your spandex and your cape, Heroes are always ready to rise to the challenge. They protect and inspire and always triumph over adversity. Heroes sell the power of self-belief and transformation when you max out on potential.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Make a positive mark on the world, solve major problems or enable others to do so, inspire courage and achievement
Brand examples: Nike, FedEx, Duracell

10. The Lover

Motivation: Belonging - to create intimacy and inspire love
Traits: Passionate, sensual, intimate, romantic, warm. The Lover not only inspires romance, but focuses on improving connections with the people and things that really matter, which means they can also foster relationships that are spiritual, familial and companionable.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Help people feel connected and enjoy intimacy. Making people - and life - more special.
Brand examples: Häagen-Dazs, Chanel, Alfa-Romeo

11. The Jester

Motivation: Belonging - to bring joy to the world
Traits: Fun, sense of humour, light-hearted, mischief-maker, irreverent. Jesters think outside the box, seek fun in every opportunity, and always aim to lighten the mood. Jesters might come across as frivolous but in fact they understand that life is fleeting and should be filled with joy as often as possible.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Help people to enjoy life, to have more fun, to see the good in everything, and allow people to be more impulsive and spontaneous
Brand examples: Cadbury’s, Ben & Jerry’s, M&Ms

12. The Everyman

Motivation: Belonging - to connect with others
Traits: Down to earth, supportive, faithful, person next door. Also known as the ‘Regular Guy or Gal’, your Everyman is pure salt-of-the-earth. Unpretentious, reliable, wholesome, comfortable, the Everyman values hard work and good old common sense.
Marketing niche / unique archetype gift: Common touch, solid virtues, comfort, offers a sense of belonging
Brand examples: IKEA, McCain, Ford

So where do you fit in?

Which archetypes most resonate with you and the service you provide? You might not fit neatly into one archetype, you might be a blend of two or three. The good news is that these aren’t static; I’ve seen Apple being classed as a ‘Creator’ and also a ‘Magician’, Coca-Cola has been classed both as a ‘Magician’ and an ‘Innocent’.

Don’t try to please everyone. Pick one key archetype, and then have no more than two secondary archetypes. Doing this will help keep your brand message and voice focused and consistent.

Build your brand, friends!

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