View Slideright arrow left arrowSlide

Why do we connect with certain brands better than others? Why are there certain brands that, no matter what they sell, produce or drop, we’re right there waiting with bated breath to see what they do next? Why do certain brands inspire a level of fanaticism (see ‘Hypebeast’ culture references in our older blog, The power of brand: Supreme) and almost a cult-like following?

I’ve got the answer for you: Archetypes

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking arche-WHAT!? But let me lay this down for you.

Archetypes (or Jungian Archetypes) were developed by psychoanalyst Carl Jung in the early 20th Century to map out the universal personality traits, regardless of culture or language, inherent within all people (and as such, every character in a film, book, myth or legend, poem, song or piece of art known to man). As humans, we more often than not sense and interpret these archetypes sub-consciously and instinctively.

“Words are good, but there is something better. The best is not to be explained by words. In the end, one returns to a wordless beholding.” – Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Archetypes are effective because they are within us all, and as Jung claimed, are shared by the whole human race as part of our “collective unconscious”, so as humans, we easily relate to them. The fundamental archetypes, as Jung explained, are full of positive, admirable attributes – values like strength, courageousness, imagination etc. Yet, let’s be honest, as humans we’re never perfect, and so Jung developed Shadow Archetypes that sit along with each fundamental. The Shadow details the unconscious and often negative traits of each character type (e.g. jealous, dictatorial, fickle, aggressive, unreliable etc.) – the darker side of the character. Think about Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – the quintessential showcase of a ‘creator’ archetype and his shadow at play.

Brands are no different and using archetypes to differentiate yourself and your personality can make for powerful marketing and ensure enduring relationships with your target audiences. For example, many people don’t understand why they like a certain brand, “they just do”. They get a certain ‘feel’ for it, a warmth or sense of belonging. Perhaps a sense of intrigue or wanting to know more. This is due to a clear archetype being present within the brand, and that archetype fulfilling a particular need or want within that person. It’s about connection. Deep down, we’re all looking for that kindred spirit – a person or a brand that ‘just gets us’, without judgement, without hesitation, unconditionally.

This doesn’t mean completely separating yourself from your Shadow Archetype in your marketing though (you don’t have to waltz around pretending you’re perfect, in fact, that tends to rub people up the wrong way). Understanding and being in tune with your Shadow Archetype gives you the tools to realise your potential weaknesses and flaws, and allows you to be honest about them, thus instilling a sense of transparency and humility in your audience. It’s saying “hey look, this is us, we’re not perfect, we’re struggling with xxx, but we’re working on it, we want to be better).

A perfect example of this is when KFC (the Everyman archetype, in case you were interested) was met with supply-chain difficulties and effectively ran out of chicken and had to close…people were outraged (lol). The media got involved. All hell broke loose….and then they apologised with a stroke of genius campaign visual that rearranged the letters of ‘KFC’ into ‘FCK’ and everyone LOVED them for it. All was forgiven. Their stock rose, people were happy, and once their chicken-supply was reinstated custom was through the roof. The use of their everyman tone of voice during this media storm and their subsequent apology made people smile, reminded them that brands are human and make mistakes too and ultimately strengthened their connection with their audience.

“There exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals.” – Carl Jung

As with humans, we define Archetypes in brands through their desires, values, fears and motivations, and as a marketing tool, defining your archetype is essential when consolidating your overall brand personality and tone of voice. Do you want to connect with people on a certain level? Do you want to be seen as authentic, honest and full of integrity? (the golden trifecta of brand values in today’s marketplace) – then define your archetype! QUICK!

There are 12 fundamental archetypes up for grabs and they each have their own distinct values, motivations, goals and fears:

The Outlaw

Brand Examples of Outlaw Archetype – Harley Davidson, Diesel, Supreme
Character examples of Outlaw Archetype – Dirty Harry, Ferris Bueller, Katniss Everdeen
Values: Strong, Honest, Courageous
Motivations: Freedom, independence, social change
Fears: Conformity, dependence, powerlessness
Goals: Revolution. To fight against the status quo.

The Magician

Brand Examples of Magician Archetype – Disney, Red Bull, Dyson
Character examples of Magician Archetype – Nathan Bateman (Ex Machina), Anakin Skywalker (as a young boy), Gandalf the Grey
Values: Visionary, Imaginative, Intuitive
Motivations: Discovery. Knowledge. Harnessing power.
Fears: Doubt. Uncertainty. Consequences
Goals: Connection with a higher force/’the intangible’. Transformation. To make dreams come true

The Hero

Brand Examples of Hero Archetype – Nike, Adidas, Landrover, FedEx
Character examples of Hero Archetype – Simba (The Lion King), Neo (The Matrix), Harry Potter, Moana, Rocky Balboa
Values: Courageous. Determined. Disciplined.
Motivations: Restoring peace. Fighting injustice. Self-improvement. Proving people wrong.
Fears: Weakness, incompetence, cowardice
Goals: A better world for everyone

The Lover

Brand Examples of Lover Archetype – Chanel, Magnum (Ice cream), Victoria’s Secret, Haagen Dazs
Character examples of Lover Archetype – Marilyn Monroe (Some Like it Hot), Baby (Dirty Dancing), M. Gustave (The Grand Budapest Hotel)
Values: Empathetic, Affectionate. Warm
Motivations: Indulgence. Intimacy. Closeness & Vulnerability
Fears: Rejection. Loneliness. Invisibility. Ugliness
Goals: To provide experience through luxury and love. To appreciate quality.

The Jester

Brand Examples of Jester Archetype – Dollar Shave Club, Ben & Jerry’s, Mailchimp, Innocent
Character examples of Jester Archetype – Beetlejuice, Austin Powers, C-3PO (Star Wars), Genie (Aladdin)
Values: Playful, optimistic, self-deprecating
Motivations: Positivity, being in the moment, not taking life too seriously
Fears: Boredom. Sadness. Negativity. Loneliness
Goals: To forge a connection through laughter. To use humour to level the playing field between those with power and those without.

The Every-person

Brand Examples of Everyman Archetype – IKEA, KFC, Toms, VW
Character examples of Everyman Archetype – Ronald Weasley (Harry Potter), Homer Simpson, Spiderman, Rogue (X-Men)
Values: Relatable. Humble. Down-to-earth. Hardworking
Motivations: Equality. Close relationships. Security. Realism
Fears: Exclusion. Isolation. Disassociation
Goals: To build a sense of belonging and community

The Caregiver

Brand Examples of Caregiver Archetype – Unicef, Macmillan, Vicks, Fairy, Pampers
Character examples of Caregiver Archetype – Mary Poppins, Obi Wan Kenobi (Star Wars), Hagrid (Harry Potter), Miss Honey (Matilda), Patch Adams
Values: Reassuring. Reliable. Caring. Empathic.
Motivations: To help and effect positive change. Dedication to a cause. Recognition
Fears: Selfishness. Ingratitude. Blame. Neglect
Goals: To protect and care for others. To provide service. To keep harm at bay.

The Ruler

Brand Examples of Ruler Archetype – Rolex, Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Microsoft
Character examples of Ruler Archetype – Don Corleone (The Godfather), Mufasa (The Lion King), Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada), Tony Soprano (The Sopranos)
Values: Strong. Commanding. Refined. Articulate. Charismatic
Motivations: Mastery. Being the best. Prosperity. Status. Stability. Control.
Fears: Weakness. Failure. Poverty. Insignificance. Being overthrown.
Goals: Obtain absolute power. Lead with confidence and certainty. Demand respect and recognition. Command authority.

The Creator

Brand Examples of Creator Archetype – Lego, Adobe, Youtube
Character examples of Creator Archetype – Dr Frankenstein, Zeus, Remy (Ratatouille), Tony Stark (Iron Man)
Values: Innovative. Imaginative. Entrepreneurial
Motivations: Pushing the boundaries. Inspiring others creativity.
Fears: Mediocrity, duplication, indifference
Goals: The pursuit of originality. Unlocking imagination.

The Innocent

Brand Examples of Innocent Archetype – Dove, Aveeno, Simple, Method, Nintendo
Character examples of Innocent Archetype – Forrest Gump, Buddy The Elf, Snow White, Dory (Finding Nemo), Luke Skywalker (Star Wars)
Values: Truthful. Sincere. Optimistic
Motivations: Making others feel good. Sharing positivity and joy. Acceptance.
Fears: Depravity. Anguish. Deceit. Negativity
Goals: Safety & happiness for all. Being wholesome and pure. Setting a good example.

The Sage

Brand Examples of Sage Archetype – Google, BBC, University of Oxford, National Geographic
Character examples of Sage Archetype – Yoda (Star Wars), Morpheus (The Matrix), The Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland), Spock (Star Trek)
Values: Analytical. Experienced. Wise. Guiding. Calm
Motivations: Expertise. Influence. Leaving a legacy
Fears: Ignorance. Insanity. Inaccuracy.
Goals: Leave a lasting legacy. Provide help through the provision of information. To teach.

The Explorer

Brand Examples of Explorer Archetype – Patagonia, The North Face, Nasa, Jeep
Character examples of Explorer Archetype – Indiana Jones, Captain Kirk (Star Trek), Maria (The Sound of Music), Tommy (The Rugrats)
Values: Courageous. Curious. Exciting. Inspiring
Motivations: Freedom. A sense of adventure. Living life to the fullest
Fears: Conformity. Confinement. Cautiousness. Boredom
Goals: To live life to the fullest. To be completely self-sufficient. To discover the unknown.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? What would you say your archetype is? Ideally, you want your fundamental archetype to represent 70% of your brand personality, with the extra 30% showing off the subtle nuances of your personality. For example, you could be defined as an EVERYMAN JESTER, or a CREATOR CAREGIVER, but be mindful that you don’t want to dilute your archetypes too much as you could come across as inauthentic.

We’ve only just scratched the surface on this fascinating subject but if you want to read more, then we can recommend the following resources based on our own research:

The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes By Margaret Mark & Carol C. Pearson

Archetypes in Branding by Margaret Pott Hartwell & Joshua C Chen

The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C. G. Jung)

Alternatively, our brand workshops combine defining your brand personality and archetype as part of your brand strategy, so if you’d rather us do the legwork for you, get in touch to find out more.