The most loved brands connect with their audience on a deep level, and develop trust through a clear and consistent personality.
Almost all brands that have loyal fans are built with a solid alignment to an archetype, which are grounded in decades of psychological research and have their roots in Greek Mythology.
Many brands compete based on features and price, but knowing and expressing your brand archetype creates a deeper connection with your audience. A strong personality is a way to differentiate your brand in a saturated market.
Carl Jung coined the term archetypes, which are innate universal pre-conscious psychic dispositions that form the substrate from which the basic themes of human life emerge.
What is a brand Archetype?
Each brand archetype is an iconic personality type. When we discover a brand with a clear archetype, it will either resonate with us because we understand on a subconscious level that it speaks to the emotions and solutions we’re looking for, or maybe it won’t resonate with us, but we’ll understand what it’s about.
Once you dive into learning about the archetypes, you’ll recognize them everywhere. You’ll often be able to easily fit friends and celebrities into their archetype category. You may even be able to pick your own archetype immediately.
The amazing thing about archetypes is that it’s not only people you’re familiar with whose archetype you can identify, but it should be easy for you to quickly identify brands and people you’re just meeting for the first time. This is because they’re pre-programmed into your subconscious. Stories, mythology, religion, and television are all filled with archetypal characters, so we all know all of the archetypes even if we couldn’t name them before. They’re a part of our culture. This is the reason archetypal branding is so powerful.
What do Brand Archetypes Do?
Brands that use archetypes speak to their audience’s subconscious.
Imagine yourself at a networking event, and there are many people there mingling. You haven’t met anyone here before, but you have a drink in your hand and you scan the room looking for an interesting person you’d like to talk to.
You know very little about these people, but your subconscious picks up on subtle clues about their personality. You can tell which people are very bubbly and social, and which are quiet. Their clothes might give you a lot of information. You see a woman with a colorful long skirt, wearing large jewelry and flamboyant eyeglasses. You see a man dressed in black trousers and a black turtleneck. You see someone in jeans and a T-shirt of your favorite band. Whether you like it or not, your subconscious makes assumptions about these people based on all kinds of things, including body language, clothing, the other people around them, the intonation of their voice.
You will assume things about them, like whether they are artistic, pensive, outgoing, shy, sensual, or whether they want to stand out or fit in.
In a similar way, the colors, fonts, images, and overall feeling of your website and social posts speaks volumes about your brand in addition to the actual content you’re publishing, and these archetypal messages communicate faster than your blog posts. Your audience can get a sense of your archetype in seconds.
How Do You Use a Brand Archetype for Your Online Business?
You can use this philosophy in very obvious ways, such as copywriting, where you clearly voice the frustrations of your audience and then offer solutions, but to design your brand around its archetype is more subtle. An effective archetype brand speaks directly to your audience’s subconscious.
To create a brand based on the archetype philosophy is to be familiar with the innate human desires of your audience, and to position your brand as the solution to these desires.
When you have chosen a clear archetype, all aspects of your brand should portray a clear personality, and then your images, graphics, and copy should all be in keeping with that character.
If your brand was a person, what would they be like? What would they like and dislike? What would be their most driving force?Once you explore the different brand archetypes, you’ll start to be able to identify the archetype of famous brands, and even fit your friends into these categories.
Why are Brand Archetypes Effective?
Archetypes Benefit the Audience
For the audience, archetypal brands evoke an emotional response and show that you stand for something bigger than yourself.
Humans have evolved to naturally seek meaning and connection. Each archetype is associated with unique needs, goals, and subconscious (or conscious) desires. Each archetype has its own values. We are naturally attracted to brands whose archetypes are in alignment with our own values, and display the characteristics and personality we’re seeking to connect with. Branding with an archetypal personality in mind will help you connect with your audience, and build trust.
Archetypes Benefit the Business
For you as a business owner and creator, your archetype is a gauge against which you can measure all of your content and brand materials. When you’re designing graphics, writing copy, or making anything for your business, approach it with the mindset that you are embodying and expressing the personality of your brand. Does what you’re creating feel authentic to your brand? If your brand were a person, would they approve?
Resonating with Your Audience
Don’t be afraid to give your brand a personality -- and know that it won’t resonate with everyone. Your target audience isn’t everyone, and thinking that it is everyone will only make your brand mediocre. You want to be a perfect fit for the right number of people, instead of being mediocre for everyone. You want your brand to stand out in a crowd so that the people who really need what you’re offering will recognize you immediately.
If you’re not convinced, check out this adorable video by Tad Hargrave from Marketing for Hippies.
The 12 Brand Archetypes
Now, let’s look at each archetype.
There are 12 main archetypes, each with their own distinct personality, and each corresponds to a specific desire.
Your brand will have a primary archetype, and may be influenced by a secondary archetype, but any more than that and the message becomes muddy.
The Revolutionary Brand Archetype
Values: Disrupting the Status Quo
The Revolutionary is not happy with the status quo. The way things are is just too boring, or too limiting, or just plain wrong. They either seek to blaze their own trail, so they can do things their own way, or they want to rock the boat and change the way things are done. They go against the grain, and don’t care what others think. They are independent thinkers who will rise in opposition against an established order. Their greatest desire is freedom.
Rebel businesses might be a game-changing non-profit, a market-disrupting start-up, or an edgy, avant-garde restaurant.
The Alchemist Brand Archetype
The Alchemist sees possibilities where others don’t, and creates transformation in peoples’ lives or businesses. Alchemists solve problems in seemingly magical ways, and make things happen. Their biggest motivator is transformation.
Many Alchemist businesses are life coaches, and therapists.
The Creator Brand Archetype
Creators need to create. They have ideas they need to make real. They love experimentation, self-expression, imagination and innovation.
The Warrior of the Light Brand Archetype
Warriors of the Light are disciplined, peaceful warriors who strive for mastery over themselves. They are constantly improving, and strive to overcome adversities and rise to the occasion. They’re focused and determined.
The Good Neighbour Brand Archetype
Values: Inclusivity, Belonging
The Good Neighbour wants everyone to feel welcome and like they belong. They want to help those less fortunate, and for everyone to be treated equally. Their biggest desire is inclusivity.
The Monarch Brand Archetype
Values: Order, Control
The Monarch strives for order in a chaotic world. They like control. They run a tight ship and can help you straighten out your mess.
Ruler brands might be home organizers, planners or business coaches.
The Nurturer Brand Archetype
Values: Comfort, Healing
The Nurturer is a maternal figure, though not necessarily female. They go above and beyond to take care of others. They are soothing, comforting and healing.
The Lover Brand Archetype
Values: Intimacy, Connection
The Lover is sensual, but doesn’t necessarily refer to romantic love. The lover loves intimacy and delighting the senses. Luxurious brands are often Lovers. Although Lovers are often seeking connection, self-love is definitely included. Indulgent brands that offer special treats to spoil yourself may be Lover brands.
The Jester Brand Archetype
Jesters seek to entertain. They bring levity to the situation and are at peace with the paradoxes of the world. They use humor to illuminate hypocrisy, but are educating and entertaining rather than seeking to solve the world’s problems.
The Innocent Brand Archetype
The Innocent is an optimist who enjoys the simple pleasures of life. They are associated with good, clean fun. Innocent brands may include whole foods, cleaning products, or products related to health. They value safety.
The Sage Brand Archetype
The Sage is wise and understanding. They are a trusted source of information, and value learning.
The Explorer Brand Archetype
Explorers have wanderlust and crave adventure. They are independent, ambitious and love trying new things. They can also be a bit restless. They value discovery.
How to Find Your Brand’s Personality
Often you can intuit your brand’s personality, based on your own personality, and the type of product or service that you sell, but sometimes there are a few options depending on how you position yourself in the market. And sometimes there isn’t a clear choice based on your product or service.
I've made a short quiz to give you some idea of what your Archetype might be, but I would read about each archetype as well.
How to Differentiate Between Brand Archetypes
Some archetypes seem to have a bit of overlap, or similar motives and values. For example the Rebel and the Explorer may seem similar. You could imagine them both blazing a new trail, and leaving behind the world they don’t like. To differentiate, look at their primary motivation. The archetypes can be grouped into four categories based on similarities, and the pairs that can be difficult to discern are in separate groups, so if you’re not sure, take a look at these groups.
Nurturer, Ruler, Creator > Seek to provide structure or stabiiity
Innocent, Sage, Explorer > Seek paradise, spirituality, or knowledge
Jester, Lover, Good Neighbour > Seek to build connection & belonging
Warrior, Alchemist, Revolutionary > Seek challenge & achievement and to leave a legacy
Revolutionary vs. Creator
The revolutionary wants to change things, not only for themselves, but for others, but the explorer is more of a seeker who values discovery for the thrill of it.
An innovative brand with a revolutionary new product might be a Creator or a revolutionary, but do they want to disrupt the old ways of doing things, or are they innovating just for the sake of progress?
Creator vs. Jester
Visually, a Creator brand might be similar to a Jester brand. They might both be creative, artistic and colorful. Jesters are crowd pleasers. They seek to entertain, to bring joy to the everyday. They could be dancers or writers, or YouTubers, but they have a playfulness to them, that brings levity to their work.
Creators may or may not be joyful and entertaining. They could be creating for innovation, or for themselves. They have an experimental spirit. Creators are more about expressing themselves than entertaining others.
Warrior vs. Good Neighbour
Warrior is also referred to as the Hero archetype, making it sound more similar to the Good Neighbour, who wants equality and to protect the underdog. Although Warriors or Heroes will fight for the little guy, they are more focused on mastery over themselves and constant improvement.
Explorer vs. Creator
Both Explorers and Creators love trying new things, but Explorers are more driven by ambition. Creators create to create, while Explorers want to go farther, do more, and try new things.
Other Types of Brand Archetypes
If Jungian archetypes don’t resonate with you, you don't have to be limited to these 12 archetypes. The point is to have a sense of clarity about your purpose and personality, and to maintain consistency to build trust with your audience. An archetype is like a gauge against which you measure your content and branding - the archetype is the ideal expression of that personality, and you don't want to deviate too far or your brand will seem inconsistent. So as long as you're clear on your own archetype, you can choose from many others.
You could consider your brand archetype by another personality model, such as Ayurveda, the Five Wisdom Energies, a Zodiac sign, a mythological character, or even having a metaphysical element (water, earth, air, fire) to guide your brand’s personality. The thing that these other models might be missing is the core desire and value, so as long as you’re clear on that you can conceptualize your brand’s persona in any way you want.
To recap, here are the basic human desires that each match with each specific archetype, and the 4 main groups.
I’m going to be exploring each archetype in more depth in the future with mood boards, Pinterest boards, and brand designs.
Comment your favorite archetype and I’ll do the popular ones sooner.