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Branding 101: 12 Brand Archetypes

Marketing Ideas 12 Brand Archetypes

What is a brand archetype? Archetypes are a concept originally conceived by famed Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung. In marketing, a brand archetype is a genre you assign to your brand, based upon symbolism. The idea behind using brand archetypes is to anchor your brand against something iconic—something already embedded within the conscious and subconscious of humanity. In the minds of both the brand owner and the public, aligning with a brand archetype makes the brand easier to identify.

Remember: You have a personal brand you show to the world. You have the power to define your personal brand, just as you define an organization’s brand.

Comment! As you read through these 12 brand archetypes, decide which applies to you or your organization. Share your findings in the comments!

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Brand Archetype #1: The Sage

Quote: “The sage wears clothes of coarse cloth but carries jewels in his bosom; He knows himself but does not display himself; He loves himself but does not hold himself in high esteem.” ~ Lao Tzu

Motto: The truth will set you free.
Driving desire: to find truth
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world
Biggest fear: being duped, misled—or ignorance.
Strategy: seeking out information and knowledge; self-reflection and understanding thought processes
Weakness: can study details forever and never act
Talent: wisdom, intelligence

Also known as: expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative, guru

Sage archetypes in the wild:

  • provide expertise or information to customers
  • encourage customers to think
  • based on new scientific findings or esoteric knowledge
  • supported by research-based facts
  • differentiate from others whose quality or performance is suspect

Archetype examples: BBC, CNN, Gallup, PBS

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Brand Archetype #2: The Innocent

Quote: “Innocence is always unsuspicious.” ~ Joseph Joubert

Motto: We are young and free.
Driving desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
Greatest fear: to be punished for doing something bad or wrong
Strategy: to do things right
Weakness: boring for all their naive innocence
Talent: faith and optimism

Also known as: utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer

Innocent archetypes in the wild:

  • offer a simple solution to a problem
  • associate with goodness, morality, simplicity, nostalgia or childhood
  • low or moderate pricing
  • companies with straightforward values
  • differentiate from brands with poor reputations

Archetype examples: Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream

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Brand Archetype #3: The Explorer

Quote: “Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit.” ~ Frank Borman

Motto: Don’t fence me in.
Driving desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
Biggest fear: getting trapped, conformity, and inner emptiness
Strategy: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Weakness: aimless wandering, becoming a misfit
Talent: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul

Also known as: seeker, iconoclast, wanderer, individualist, pilgrim

Explorer archetypes in the wild:

  • helps people feel free, nonconformist or pioneering
  • rugged and sturdy or for use in the great outdoors or in dangerous settings
  • can be purchased from a catalog or on the Internet
  • help people express their individuality
  • can be purchased for consumption on the go
  • differentiate from a successful regular guy/gal brand or conformist brand
  • culture that creates new and exciting products or experiences

Archetype examples: Indiana Jones, Jeep, Marlboro

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Brand Archetype #4: The Ruler

Quote: “He who is to be a good ruler must have first been ruled.” ~ Aristotle

Motto: Power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Driving desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
Strategy: exercise power
Greatest fear: chaos, being overthrown
Weakness: being authoritarian, unable to delegate, out of touch with reality
Talent: responsibility, leadership

Also known as: boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model, manager or administrator

Ruler archetypes in the wild:

  • high-status product or service used by powerful people to enhance their power
  • make people more organized
  • offer a lifetime guarantee
  • empower people to maintain or enhances their grip on power
  • has a regulatory or protective function
  • moderate to high pricing
  • differentiate from populist brands or clear leaders in the field
  • market leaders offering a sense of security and stability in a chaotic world

Archetype examples: IBM, Microsoft

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Brand Archetype #5: The Creator

Quote: “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Motto: If you can imagine it, it can be done.
Driving desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realize a vision
Greatest fear: mediocre vision or execution
Strategy: develop artistic control and skill
Task: to create culture, express own vision
Weakness: perfectionism, bad solutions
Talent: creativity and imagination

Also known as: artist, inventor, innovator, muse, musician, writer or dreamer

Creator archetypes in the wild:

  • promote self-expression, give customers choices and options, help foster innovation or is artistic in design
  • creative fields like marketing, public relations, the arts, or technological innovation
  • differentiate from “do-it-all” brands that leave little room for the imagination
  • “do-it-yourself and save money” approach
  • customer has the time to be creative
  • organization with a creative culture

Archetype examples: Lego, Sony, Crayola

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Brand Archetype #6: The Caregiver

Quote: “When you’re a caregiver, you need to realize that you’ve got to take care of yourself, because—not only are you going to have to rise to the occasion to help someone else—but you have to model for the next generation.” ~ Naomi Judd

Motto: Love your neighbor as yourself.
Driving desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
Greatest fear: selfishness and ingratitude
Strategy: doing things for others
Weakness: martyrdom, being exploited
Talent: compassion, generosity

Also known as: saint, altruist, parent, helper, supporter

Caregiver archetypes in the wild:

  • give customers a competitive advantage
  • support families (products from fast-food to minivans) or is associated with nurturing (e.g. cookies, teaching materials)
  • serve the public sector, e.g. health care, education, aid programs and other caregiving fields
  • help people stay connected with and care about others
  • help people care for themselves
  • likely a non-profit or charitable cause

Archetype examples: Mother Teresa, Johnson’s Baby Shampoo

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Brand Archetype #7: The Magician

Quote: “Dream no small dream; it lacks magic. Dream large. Then make the dream real.” ~ Donald Wills Douglas

Motto: I make things happen.
Driving desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
Greatest fear: unintended negative consequences
Strategy: develop a vision and live by it
Weakness: becoming manipulative
Talent: finding win-win solutions, making the complex appear simple

Also known as: visionary, catalyst, inventor, charismatic leader, shaman, healer, medicine man

Magician archetypes in the wild:

  • promise to transform customers
  • product or service is transformative
  • may have a new-age quality
  • consciousness-expanding
  • user-friendly or contemporary
  • spiritual connotations
  • medium to high pricing

Archetype examples: Disney, Dreamscape Multimedia, Oil of Olay

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Brand Archetype #8: The Hero

Quote: ”A hero has faced it all; he need not be undefeated, but he must be undaunted.” ~ Andrew Bernstein

Motto: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Driving desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
Greatest fear: weakness, vulnerability, being a “chicken”
Strategy: to be as strong and competent as possible
Weakness: arrogance, always needing another battle to fight
Talent: competence and courage

Also known as: warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, savior, soldier, dragon slayer, the winner and the team player

Hero archetypes in the wild:

  • inventions or innovations that will have a major impact on the world
  • help people be all they can be
  • solve a major social problem or encourage others to do so
  • have clear opponent you want to beat
  • underdog or challenger brands
  • products and services that are strong and help people do tough jobs exceptionally well
  • differentiate from competitors with problems following through or keeping their promises (“brand enemy” positioning)
  • customers see themselves as good, moral citizens

Archetype examples: Nike, Superman

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Brand Archetype #9: The Outlaw

Quote: “Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is sign on as its accomplice.” ~ Tom Robbins

Motto: Rules are made to be broken.
Driving desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
Greatest fear: to be powerless or ineffectual
Strategy: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Weakness: crossing over to the dark side, crime
Talent: outrageousness, radical freedom

Also known as: rebel, revolutionary, wild man, the misfit, or iconoclast

Outlaw archetypes in the wild:

  • appeal to customers or employees who feel disenfranchised from society
  • help retain values that are threatened by emerging ones
  • pave the way for revolutionary new attitudes
  • low to moderate pricing
  • break with industry conventions

Archetype examples: Harley-Davidson, Apple

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Brand Archetype #10: The Lover

Quote: “A true lover always feels in debt to the one he loves.” ~ Ralph W. Sockman

Motto: You’re the only one.
Driving desire: intimacy and experience
Goal: being in a relationship with the people, work and surroundings they love
Greatest fear: being alone, a wallflower, unwanted, unloved
Strategy: to become more and more physically and emotionally attractive
Weakness: outward-directed desire to please others at risk of losing own identity
Talent: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment

Also known as: partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse, team-builder

Lover archetypes in the wild:

  • help people belong, find friends or partners
  • help people have a good time
  • low to moderate pricing
  • freewheeling, fun-loving organizational structure
  • differentiate from self-important, overconfident brands

Archetype examples: Victoria’s Secret, Lady Godiva

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Brand Archetype #11: The Jester

Quote: “Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health and is as friendly to the mind as to the body.” ~ Joseph Addison

Motto: You only live once.
Driving desire: to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
Greatest fear: being bored or boring others
Strategy: play, make jokes, be funny
Weakness: frivolity, wasting time
Talent: joy

Also known as: fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian

Jester archetypes in the wild:

  • give people a sense of belonging
  • help people have a good time
  • low to moderate pricing
  • fun-loving companies
  • differentiate from self-important, overconfident established brands

Archetype examples: Motley Fool, Muppets

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Brand Archetype #12: The Regular Guy/Girl

Quote: “I understand the common man because I understand me in that regard, at least.” ~ Vince McMahon

Motto: All men and women are created equal.
Driving desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
Greatest fear: to be left out or to stand out from the crowd
Strategy: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Weakness: losing one’s own self in an effort to blend in or for the sake of superficial relationships
Talent: realism, empathy, lack of pretense

Also known as: good old boy, everyman, the person next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbor, the silent majority

Regular Guy or Girl archetypes in the wild:

  • giving people a sense of belonging
  • offers everyday functionality
  • low to moderate pricing
  • solid companies with a down-home organizational culture
  • differentiate from elitist or higher-priced brands

Archetype examples: Home Depot, Wendy’s

Not sure which brand archetype applies to you or your organization?

» Take the Marketing Ideas 101 Brand Archetype Quiz! «

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Reference
Peña-Bickley, J. PostDigital, 2007. http://joannapenabickley.typepad.com/on/2007/06/on_the_12_arche.html. Source: Archetypes, via BrandHouse, Denmark.