Does your business have a brand? And furthermore, does your brand have core values and a purpose that ultimately translate into something that feels like a personality? If so, you’re oh-so-close to establishing a brand archetype.

Archetypes are a concept that has existed for many years, with roots set deep in Greek mythology. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that this concept was given its name. Carl Jung, founder of Analytical Psychology, discovered that humans have a preference (and tendency) to use symbols to understand concepts…and that those symbols are largely universal, transcendent of time, place and circumstance.

Humans have a preference (and tendency) to use symbols to understand concepts…and those symbols are largely universal, transcendent of time, place and circumstance.

In other words, regardless of age, social status, religion, culture or native language, people understand archetypes. A mother nurtures. A father protects. A snake bites. A doctor heals. These are archetypes that are widely accepted, recognised and understood. 

Archetypes are so powerful because they feed into our basic human desires. There are things we instinctively want on a primitive level, desires which match up with archetypes that, whether you know their names, you understand on a deeper level.

Creating a Brand Archetype

It’s this connection to basic human desires that makes archetypes powerful and effective when used to build a brand for your business.   

A brand archetype embodies the key images, values, reasons and benefits offered by your brand.

When your brand carries a strong archetype, people will find it more relatable, because they know what to expect and can easily make decisions about whether or not they want to interact with it. They will establish deeper connections with it, because the archetype will conjure up old memories and emotions, making the relationship feel more trustworthy and credible. A reputation will be established early on, thanks to the associations your audience will make with the archetype.

When your #brand carries a strong #archetype, people will find it more relatable, because they know what to expect and can easily make decisions about whether or not they want to interact with it. Click To Tweet

However, be careful that you don’t mistake stereotypes for archetypes or you could end up in a lot of trouble. Stereotypes are rooted in cultural specific norms that tend to be simplistic and unrefined, whereas archetypes are rooted in universal truths that are rich and distinctive. 

Stereotypes are rooted in cultural specific norms that tend to be simplistic and unrefined, whereas archetypes are rooted in universal truths that are rich and distinctive. 

Stereotypes aren’t always obvious or negative. For example, saying that all television newsreaders are respectable, dependable, and impartial is a broad stereotype, whereas saying that a caregiver is nurturing in nature is an example of an archetype. 

Find YOUR Archetype

There are four main categories from which to choose: Change, Group Belonging, Order, and Self-Knowledge.

Which one of these best describes your brand?

Now, use the following descriptions and examples to choose the specific archetype that will work best to personify your brand:

Change: the Outlaw, the Hero, and the Magician

  • The Outlaw, otherwise known as the Rebel, challenges the status quo and represents your audience’s rebellious spirit, and anger at how institutions have made circumstances worse, rather than better. The Outlaw appeals to the part of you that likes to break rules, follow their impulses, and forge your own path. Businesses that build their brands using the outlaw archetype aspire to build a cult-like following and strong brand loyalty. 

    One example of this Kylie Cosmetics by Kylie Jenner. Kylie Cosmetics has become extremely popular since its inception, inspiring a cult-like following online. With a focus on limited edition products and urgency, the brand encourages you to spend impulsively rather than carefully. 

    Another classic example of an Outlaw brand is Virgin Airlines. When it’s creator Richard Branson first started Virgin, he wanted to build a brand that was different from its competitors – a reasonably priced airline that cared about its passengers. Believe it or not, this was a revolutionary idea at the time, and by breaking the rules and following its own path, Virgin became an international brand that’s not afraid to be different. 
  • The Hero thrives on overcoming challenges and displays admirable courage in the face of danger and adversity. The hero brand represents adventure and encourages you to rise to the occasion. Organisations that use the Hero archetype usually inspire the feeling of adventure, and encourage you to rise to the occasion.

    The Australian Army is one such example of a Hero brand. They emphasise adventure in their marketing, with a focus on action and danger. Their photo advertising often shows men and women standing in front of large aircraft, tanks, and ships. Even their slogan “Challenge Yourself” is a powerful call to action, encouraging people to see themselves as heroes, and answer the call. 

    Another popular, but less obvious Hero brand is Fedex. Fedex focuses less on rising to the occasion and more on overcoming challenges. With promises of on-time delivery, and drivers who are willing to overcome any challenge to get your packages to you, Fedex is the Hero of the delivery world. As a brand they use strong language, and dramatic wording such as “the world on time” to turn the simple idea of package delivery into a seemingly dangerous mission.

  • Riding the line between Change and Group Belonging is the Magician, who is masterfully influential, and therefore makes transformations (that the average consumer would struggle to make on her own) on a regular basis. The Magician offers its audience an experience that is completely different from their usual lives.

    A business that embodies the Magician archetype has great vision, and aspires to bring its customers wildest dreams to life. Amusement parks like Legoland are a great example of the Magician. Promising its customers that “awesome awaits”, Legoland creates a sense of wonder and intrigue in its consumers.

    Another brand example of the Magician is Red Bull. Red Bull’s famous tagline, “gives you wings” creates a sense of wonder and surrealism. Even though the product can’t actually give you wings, Red Bull leans into the feeling of magic and wonder, making them a strong Magician brand. 

Group Belonging: the Jester, the Lover, the Every Person

  • The Jester is an expert at making even the most routine task entertaining or enjoyable. They aim to make their consumers smile, and encourage humor, silliness and nonsense through clever marketing campaigns and branding.

    Take for example, the American fast-food chain Wendy’s. They’ve made a name for themselves over the last few years by creating a cheeky twitter account with a focus on sassing competitors like McDonalds. This has given Wendy’s a reputation among millennials as a salty, funny brand, worth following.

  • The Lover is a master at the perpetual pursuit (and achievement) of satisfaction. Brands that embody the Lover encourage sensuality, passion, and pleasure. They want you to feel attractive and accepted, and want you to share your desires with them. Brands like Pandora embody the Lover. They use very feminine colours and words, promoting the idea that Pandora jewelry will make you feel beautiful and admired.

  • Between Group Belonging and Order is the Every Person, who is easy-to-please, but expects all the basic needs and wants of the average man to be met…for every person. It is the most difficult archetype for a brand to pull off, as it means that your brand has to appeal to all demographics. It’s not impossible however, and one example of a brand that does it well is Ikea. Ikea uses non-threatening colours and inclusive wording, and offers enough variety in it’s product that it appeals to basically everyone. 

Order: the Caregiver, the Ruler, the Creator

  • The Caregiver is selfless, compassionate and always focused on helping others. They are the opposite of confrontational, and brands that embody the Caregiver archetype want you to trust them and turn to them when you’re feeling vulnerable. Caregiver brands want to help people.

    Take for example, Headspace. They’re main goal is to help people lead healthy, happy, positive lives. They are consistent in their branding and use calming colours and gentle, motivational words to create a supportive brand.

  • The Ruler oversees and inspires people to take charge of their lives and to contribute to the society they live in. Brands that embody this archetype are focused on exclusivity. They generally sell high-quality, expensive items like cars and jewelry. For example, Mercedes-Benz is an example of the Ruler archetype. They use a lot of black, silver, and white in their branding, and promote a sense of luxury and exclusivity.

  • The Creator lies between Order and Self-Knowledge and inspires the use of imagination to combat the commonplace. Brands that embody the Creator encourage creativity and self-expression, and usually have a do-it-yourself aspect.

    Creator brands such as Adobe seek to find balance between perfection and simplicity. Adobe creates a wide range of apps that allow you to express your creativity however you want. This is visible throughout their branding and even in their tagline “creativity for all”. 

Self-Knowledge: the Innocent, the Sage, the Explorer

  • The Innocent is childlike, trusting, optimistic and spontaneous. The Innocent enjoys the simple things in life and will always stop to smell the roses. Brands that embody this archetype encourage you to see them as pure and sweet. They will never try and mislead you, and often charm their customers through goodwill and nostalgia.

    Dove is an excellent example of an Innocent brand. They target women of all demographics and encourage acceptance and self-love. Their branding is soft and inclusive, drawing their customers in with a sense of acceptance and wholesomeness.

  • The Sage is focused on truth, choice and how both can free the mind. They are focused on the pursuit of truth and knowledge above all else. Brands that embody the Sage archetype are focused on information, both supplying it and encouraging the pursuit of it. Brands like the New York Times embody the Sage archetype, as it portrays itself as being powerful and confident in its position. It’s a brand you trust to give you’d accurate information.

  • And finally, the Explorer sits halfway between Self-Knowledge and Change by ‘taking the road less travelled’ simply for the thrill of the journey, or to ‘break the norm’ just for the sake of doing it differently. The Explorer craves freedom and self-discovery. 

    Brands that embody this archetype are brands that encourage people to take risks and get out of their comfort zones. Jeep is an example of this, as they use their advertising and branding to encourage their customers to go on adventures and make their lives more interesting. 

What will your brand archetype look like?

What are you to do with this information? After choosing the brand archetype that exemplifies the characteristics of your brand, use its qualities to create something that speaks to your target audience in a language they will understand, and that authentically conveys what your brand is offering. This could be a character, or an idea that you communicate through your visual brand identity.

I trust that these brand archetypes will help you along your path, as you strive to fully define your brand and how people will perceive it. Universal symbols, or archetypes, will aid you in communicating efficiently and effectively with your ideal clients—to save valuable time, to communicate without ambiguity, to shape your reputation and to make your brand more genuine and trustworthy.

Universal symbols, or #archetypes, will aid you in communicating efficiently and effectively with your ideal clients. #businesstips Click To Tweet

Do you have a brand archetype? And do you feel that it properly represents the message you’re trying to convey? Let us know in the comments below!