12 min read
How to Unlock the Power of Brand Archetypes in your Branding
May 17th, 2022
Heroic tales, love stories and epic journeys; these are narratives we as humans all instinctively understand. They are part of the concept of archetyping; a theory that dates back thousands of years to the Philosopher Plato and his ideas around ‘Elemental Forms’ – the idealised templates around which the material world was based.
An archetype is a model image of a person, role or object, and includes mother and father figures, heroes, wise old men and clowns or jokers. We have become accustomed to such archetypes being represented and expressed as book or film characters; James Bond for example, is a classic hero, while the Fairy Godmother is the ultimate caregiver and mother figure.
But how does this apply to branding?
It was the famed psychologist, Carl Jung, who brought the concept of archetyping into the modern world, introducing the idea that our unconscious thoughts and actions could be influenced and explained by these age-old stories and how we relate to them.
Apply this theory to modern brands and branding campaigns and you’ve got one highly effective marketing tool on your hands. If the stories behind brands were able to evoke unconscious thoughts or emotions and drive positive actions in customers, imagine how successful those brands could become.
Before we delve into how you can unlock the power of your own brand archetype, however, let’s take a look at what they are. There are 12 fundamental archetypes that your brand could fall under.
What are the 12 fundamental brand archetypes?
Most brands can fit within at least one of the following brand archetypes, each representing different ideals and age-old, familiar narratives. Bear in mind, we’re not talking about stereotypes here. Archetypes are not about being predictable or conforming to societal norms, but rather expressing a personality in a way that best appeals to a particular audience.
Let’s take a look at the 12 main archetypes:
Passionate. Imaginative. Expressive
A Creator brand strives to create the products or services you simply can’t live without. Ever the perfectionists, Creator brands are the champions of quality design and aesthetics, bringing innovation and imagination to the fore.
Example Creator brands: Sony, Lego, Adobe
Emotive. Amorous. Affectionate
Lover brands want you to associate them with all the most intimate and emotional elements of your life. From products to help you celebrate momentous occasions to the brands you turn to when you want to treat a loved one, lover brands provide sensual, nurturing experiences.
Example Lover brands: Galaxy, Pandora, Chanel
Commanding. Powerful. Controlling
Ruler brands are the leaders of the pack in their industries. Commandingly confident, they represent the highest of standards and dominate the landscape thanks to their reputation for high quality and expertise.
Example Ruler brands: Rolls Royce, Rolex, John Lewis
Courageous. Triumphant. Focused
Heroic brands are always seeking to prove themselves to their customers. They are the saviours and the redeemers of our society, bravely endeavouring to help everybody achieve their goals and make the world a better place
Example Hero brands: Nike, Duracell, WWF
Transformative. Dynamic. Inspirational
Magician brands help make dreams come true. Thinking deeply and well outside the box, magicians are experts at transforming everyday concepts into seemingly magical experiences and products.
Example Magician brands: Apple, Red Bull, Disney
Satirical. Sharp. Silly
Jester brands aim to bring humour to the world while challenging convention and shaking things up. These brands are the tricksters of the market, bringing a light-hearted edge to often the most unexpected industries.
Example Jester brands: Cadbury, IKEA, MoneySupermarket
Familiar. Wholesome. Dependable
Citizen brands are the everyday guy/girl in brand form. They simply seek to belong, creating a brand appeal that spans almost every demographic and providing a useful service without pretentiousness or concern for personal gain.
Example Citizen brands: Yorkshire Tea, Carling, Kickstarter
Provocative. Unconventional. Revolutionary
Rebel brands seek to position themselves as alternatives to the mainstream offerings. Never afraid to do things differently, Rebels often seek to create cult-like followings by developing radical ideas and shaking up the industry.
Example Rebel brands: Harley Davidson, Apple, Vans
Ambitious. Innovative. Adventurous
Pushing boundaries, exploring new frontiers and constantly on the lookout for self-discovery, Explorer brands are the adventurers of business. With a focus on freedom and an insatiable wanderlust, these brands seek to take their customers with them on their travels.
Example Explorer brands: GoPro, Landrover, The North Face
Wise. Open-minded. Intelligent
Sage brands are the teachers of the world. Seeking truth, wisdom and knowledge, the Sage brands use their superior intelligence, authority and high-quality resources to teach us what we need to know in a way that we can understand and trust.
Example Sage brands: National Geographic, BBC, Tripadvisor
Pure. Happy. Optimistic
The Innocent brands just want us to be happy. They strive for a simple life with no hidden agendas and no barriers between the customer and their happiness.
Example Innocent brands: Toys ‘R’ Us, CocaCola, Innocent Smoothies
Nurturing. Benevolent. Kind-hearted
The brand equivalents of the mother and father figures of old, Caregiver brands are characterised by their love of protecting and nurturing their customers. Providing safety, support and honesty, these brands demonstrate a true duty of care towards others.
Example Caregiver brands: Nivea, Actimel, SC Johnson
Identifying Your Brand Archetype
Did any of those sound like your brand?
Now you’re familiar with the personalities and traits of the various archetypes, it’s time to identify the one within which your brand most naturally sits. Brand archetypes can overlap and some brands could fall under multiple personas – Apple could easily fit into The Creator, The Magician and The Rebel archetypes, for example – but there will usually be one standout personality that best fits your brand.
To help you identify your brand archetype, you need to understand your own brand on the deepest possible level. Ask yourself the following questions:
➔ Who does my brand serve?
➔ Why does my brand exist?
➔ What motivates my brand and what is my mission?
➔ What motivates my customers?
➔ If my brand could introduce itself, what would it say first?
➔ What would the perfect customer review say about my brand?
➔ If my brand was a famous character or influential figure, who would it be and why?
Answering these will help you successfully choose which brand archetype best defines your brand personality. That’s the great thing about these archetypes; they’re based on personalities we have an innate ability to understand and identify with. Odds are, you set up your brand based on fulfilling strong, very specific needs and emotions, so recognising your brand personality will most likely come naturally once you start to think about it more deeply.
Using Your Brand Archetype to Your Advantage
Choosing your brand archetype was the fun part. Now it’s time for the really crucial part; unlocking the power of your brand archetype and putting everything into practice. There’s no point in establishing your brand’s personality only to let it sit meekly on a shelf; here’s how to let your brand’s personality out to play.
Words, Copy & Communication
The most human element of any brand and any website is the copy. With this in mind, it really ought to reflect your brand’s personality as well as serve its purpose in providing information and guidance. If written well, your brand copy can inform, entertain and tell stories all at once.
You can add your brand’s personality to all elements of your brand copy, from your website landing page copy (think straplines and your ‘About Us’ page) to your product descriptions and website button copy, calls to action, tooltips and directional content (also known as microcopy).
For example, if your brand archetype is ‘The Magician’ and you run an e-commerce website, you can use your copy to create an experience that mirrors your archetype. Let’s say your customer’s shopping bag is empty. Your empty-state shopping bag could say:
‘Your shopping bag is empty right now’
Not very magical, is it? But with a little sprinkle of your brand’s personality, it could say:
There’s nothing here yet, but that’s all about to change!
With just a click of this button you’ll be taken to our wondrous new collection
[Explore the Collection]
Not only does this redirect your customers back to where you want them to be (on your product pages), it also reinforces your brand’s personality and reminds your customers why they love to shop with you.
Another way to unleash your brand archetype through copy is with marketing emails. Imagine the customer from the above magical e-commerce website has made a purchase. You would then send a confirmation email to reassure them that their order has been received. It could say:
‘Thanks for your order. We’ll contact you when your item has been shipped’
But, again, that’s not making the most of your brand archetype at all. These emails are another fantastic opportunity to continually kindle fresh excitement and customer satisfaction around your brand identity, so you’d be better off saying something like:
We’ve got your order and we’re preparing your goodies as we speak.
We’ll let you know as soon as they’re on their way to you; won’t be long now!
[Track their journey with our order tracker]
Much more magical, and there’s a call to action to keep your customers engaged and invested in their purchase. Copy can make a huge difference to your customers’ user experience with your brand, while also helping to reinforce the personality you have chosen for your brand.
Imagery & Colour
Whether it’s photography, graphics, animation or video, your choice of imagery can affect the perception of your brand’s personality. The presence of this visual content is essential for creating any kind of personality at all, but the imagery itself needs to match the personality you want your customers to relate to and invest in.
Sticking with the Magician archetype example, you can use your images to demonstrate how your products or services help create a magical experience. Emotionally-engaging product photography or – better yet – video content that helps tell a story around your products and brand will enhance the magical elements of your archetype. If your brand makes dreams come true, show them how. If your brand does something no other brand can do, show them how.
We’ve all heard about the psychology of colour and how this can create different perceptions and emotions. For example, purple is said to represent qualities such as wisdom, creativity, imagination and calm, and so makes an ideal colour choice for caregiver and creator brands. Black is said to represent prestige and power, and so works well for Ruler brands. Common colours used by Magician brand archetypes include pinks, oranges and purples, demonstrating a combination of creativity, self-improvement, vision and excitement.
This is not to say that these colours are only suited to these certain archetypes; establishing your brand archetype and brand colour scheme should be an exploratory and experimental process in which you test various colour combinations to find what works for you.
Want a great tip? Try printing some of your brand copy onto various different colour backgrounds. Does it make you read it differently?
Consistent Customer Touchpoints
Remember we said that brand archetypes are tied into stories? That’s what you need to create with your brand, an all-encompassing story that your customers can relate to and invest in. To do this properly, you should consider each and every touchpoint your customers may come into contact with when interacting with your brand, and make sure that all the points we’ve covered above on language, copy and imagery are fed into these points.
Common touchpoints include but are not limited to: Brand websites, social media channels, press releases, business cards, traditional print marketing, TV marketing, email marketing, stationery and merchandise.
All of the above can work together to tell your brand’s story in different ways, so long as you keep them consistent. Colour and language are especially important here, as any variations across channels and touchpoints can cause confusion.
With any luck this article has set your mind racing with ideas for establishing and applying your very own brand archetype to your website, marketing and customer experiences. If you ever do need a hand with your brand identity, however, I just so happen to have a wealth of experience that area. Drop me a line and let’s look at how I can help you build your new brand around your chosen archetype.