Brand Archetypes

All successful brand content possesses a strong and uniquely identifiable personality, which people can quickly identify or recognise. These personalities, tend to reflect the aspirations and hopes of their target market and core audience. Developing this identity identity is crucial to brand development and both your short and long-term success.

Brand development can be a long, costly and arduous process that requires more than anything else to understand who you are and who your target audience is. There are models of thinking that have made this seemingly nuanced and subtle brand psychology more relatable to our own human understanding of identity, marketers have come up with a categorisation system called brand archetypes.

These ‘archetypes’ have been lifted and adapted directly from the work of psychoanalytical pioneer Carl Jung. Let’s find out a little bit more about him before we go on.

A Brief History of Jungian Archetypes

When thinking about some of your favourite brand narratives, you will likely begin to see similar characters in each, regardless of genre or medium. Think of the sagacious detective using alcohol to drown his sorrows; the quirky romantic who just can’t do anything right; the action hero with a troubled past. You get the idea. Well, prominent psychologist Carl Jung understood that the reason why some characters are so immediately and distinctly recognisable to us is because they are part of our shared collective unconscious.

Jungian archetypes play an important part in the history of psychoanalysis (whose other more famous founding father was Sigmund Freud) but have been adopted by branding experts because they offer a shortcut to collective identity surrounding brand personality.

Through the use of the Jungian model of collective social understanding, these can help both large and small businesses deftly and directly convey their purpose and/or core values in such a way as to be instantly identifiable and relatable.

Let’s take a look at the twelve brand archetypes…

The Sage (aka the Scholar or the Teacher)

Primarily concerned with understanding the world, sage archetypes spend time contemplating often complex issues and possess an unwavering desire to uncover and comprehend truths. Aiming to celebrate curiosity, these brands feel compelled to share their knowledge and expertise with others, without ever resorting to patronising their audiences.

The BBC, Google and National Geographic are prime examples of Sage brand archetypes, contributing as they are to their audience’s understanding of the world.

The Magician (aka the Visionary or the Shaman)

Utilising their vision and imagination, magician archetypes seek to craft new experiences, change the world and make the seemingly impossible possible. They often employ a certain level of caution, however, as they are wary of the potential unintended consequences that might result from such visionary exploration.

Magician brands include Intel, Disney, Dyson, all of which focus on connecting with individuals and demonstrating the positive experiences their businesses deliver.

The Hero (aka the Warrior or the Superhero)

With a distinct desire to affect positive change, there is nothing subtle about the hero brand archetype because they believe striving to overcome difficult obstacles and inspiring others in the process. In this sense Hero brands like to shout from the rooftops about their achievements.

Airbus, Nike, and Duracell have all mastered the art of positioning themselves as authorities within their respective niches, demonstrating that their value exceeds that of their competition.

The Caregiver (aka the Nurturer the Parent or the Saint)

With compassion at the forefront of their approach, caregiver archetypes seek to meet the needs of the people around them and ensure that everyone feels appreciated and safe. Caregiver brands understand that as the hard sell will always turn their audience away, making their audiences feel special is crucial to their success.

Volvo, Johnson’s Baby, Pampers, and SMA all produce emotionally driven brand narratives specifically designed to strike a heartfelt chord with their audiences.

The Explorer (aka the Wanderer or the Seeker)

Explorer archetypes thrive on the unfamiliar and are motivated by self-determination and freedom. Although they recognise boundaries, consistently pushing the limit is a defining feature of this enthused and determined archetype.

Northface, Jeep, and Starbucks help their customers to enjoy new experiences and are adept at encouraging loyalty without appearing needy or desperate.

The Revolutionary (aka the Rebel or the Outlaw)

Revolutionaries thrive on breaking the rules, challenging the status quo and carving their own unique path. Revolutionary brands will often produce unique content that doesn’t necessarily have an obvious ‘selling’ point.

Virgin, MTV and Harley Davidson have each cultivated a cult-like following through subverting convention and promoting independence and alternative lifestyles.

The Lover (aka the Idealist or the Dreamer)

Sensual, intimate and passionate, lover archetypes are motivated by an appreciation for beauty. The brand archetypes position themselves as glamourous and their messaging often focuses closely on how their products make their customers feel both inside and out.

Versace, Victoria’s Secret and Godiva are mysterious and intriguing. People featured in their advertising are often personifications of the brands themselves and are keen to communicate to their customers that, if they buy into the brand, they too will feel loved and desired.

The Creator (aka the Artist)

Creator archetypes don’t follow trends, they make them. Innovative and expressive, creator brands unleash their audiences’ creativity. These brands know that their audiences are notoriously difficult to appeal to, which is why they focus on developing and nurturing a devoted and engaged fan base.

The approaches of Lego, Adobe, Canon and Apple are centred around championing the artistic and creative endeavours of their users and customers.

The Ruler (aka the King or the Leader)

Proudly lauding their influence and accomplished leadership skills, ruler archetypes have no desire to conceal their aspirations for power and control. Having worked constantly to build a superior status within their industry, ruler archetypes are confident and embody stability and trust worthiness.

American Express, Microsoft and Mercedes-Benz communicate a sense of luxury and power throughout their advertising campaigns, encouraging aspiration and celebrating affluence.

The Innocent (aka the Dreamer)

Optimistic and honest, innocent archetypes are motivated by happiness and typically detest gimmicks and heavy-handed approaches. Innocent brands demonstrate a propensity for simplicity and prefer to avoid fussy messaging that might be interpreted as deceitful.

The wholesome, calm and sincere approaches of Innocent Smoothies and Original Source are carefully shaped to appeal to their enthusiastic and mindful audiences and are prime examples of this sincere and truthful archetype.

The Jester (aka the Comedian or the Fool)

Jester archetypes know that not everything has to be so serious all the time. Advocates of living in the present, they are motivated by enjoyment and despise monotony. Maintaining a playful and sometimes unusual stance, jester archetypes evoke an inspiring ‘life is too short’ mentality which implores their audience to seek fun and not take life too seriously.

Examples of jester archetypes include Skittles and CompareTheMarket.com.

The Everyman (aka the Good Guy or the Regular Guy)

Maintaining an approachable and unpretentious manner, connecting with people is the primary motivation of everyman archetypes. Dedicated to creating an environment where everyone feels as though they belong, everyman archetypes are dependable, familiar and trustworthy.

McDonalds, IKEA, Asda and Carling are proud of their accessible and down-to-earth reputations and want to make each one of their customers feel like everyday heroes.

A Final Word on Culture and Archetypes

It’s important to note that not all archetypes will have the same productive stimulus across different cultural groups. Research from Millward Brown highlights, for example, that while the most successful brands in France are seen to be assertive and in control, successful brands in Japan instead embody fun and creativity. This highlights the importance of not just knowing who your audience is but where they are too, if you are to create a brand with global appeal that is.

Although cultural differences are important, archetypes are a powerful way of establishing a sense of consistency and cohesion between your brand, your messaging and your audience. Helping you to clearly define your brand characteristics and vision picking an archetype will anchor you to a set of personality traits ensuring that you remain faithful to your ethos and build a presence that audiences can come to expect and identify with.