Brand Archetypes Guide: What are They and How Can You Use Them to Better Market Your Brand?
Brand archetypes are a powerful tool for today’s marketers. Knowing your brand’s archetype can help you understand your brand identity at a deep level and can become a lens to measure the authenticity of all your marketing activities. Using your archetype wisely, you can build a brand that resonates with your customers and cultivates greater trust, connection, and loyalty.
And who doesn’t want more of that? In this guide, we’ll unpack the history of brand archetypes and how savvy marketers can use them to strengthen their brand relevance and positioning.
Skip ahead to the content you’re looking for:
- History of the 12 Archetypes
- Why do Archetypes Matter in Marketing?
- The Brand Archetype Wheel
- Examples of Brand Archetypes
- How to Identify your Brand Archetype
- Brand Strategy for Each Archetype
History of the 12 Archetypes
When psychoanalyst Carl Jung first identified these archetypes, he was looking at people, not brands. His research on the mind went beyond the human brain. Jung expanded the idea of our personal unconscious to a “collective unconscious,” a place in our mind filled with shared universal behaviors, human instincts, and common stories and symbols. It is within this “collective unconscious” that we find Jung’s 12 Archetypes.
Jung developed these archetypes when he kept finding them over and over again in stories. These common characters—like a ‘hero,’ a ’trickster,’ or a ‘lover’—felt familiar on an instinctual level, transcending language, culture, and history. Jung applied these simplified characters to human psychology as a way to understand how individuals might see themselves and their place in the world. We all have a story we tell about ourselves, and this story revolves around a core motivation that influences our behavior, our desires, and our values.
Jung’s archetypes have since been used in psychology to help individuals identify their core motivations and better understand why they think and act the way they do. When we see ourselves in an archetype, we tap into that collective unconscious that we share with others, and we can better connect and communicate with the people around us.
Why do Archetypes Matter in Marketing?
Archetypes matter in marketing because marketing is about connecting to real human beings who are evaluating their needs and your brand’s ability to deliver on them.
When we encounter certain universal behaviors or personalities, our brain unconsciously intercepts these messages. Based on our individual core desire and personality, we instinctively choose to connect with that character or avoid them. When you apply this concept to marketing, you give your brand a personality, a tone of voice, and an outlook on life—all the features of an archetype. This allows you to create a consistent internal culture for your company, aligning your brand’s behaviors and communication with the deep and unconscious desires of your core customer.
By taking on an archetype, you make it easier for your customer to understand your brand on an emotional level, and in turn, your customer will respond with trust and loyalty.
Your brand archetype works as a mental shortcut to help you and your team create consistent, engaging messaging and content. The more consistently you present yourself, the better chance you have of authentically connecting with your customer.
By choosing an archetype for your brand, you don’t exclude those customers who don’t resonate with your archetype. You draw upon a fundamental narrative to tell the story of your brand. Think of it as a shortcut to developing the ‘why’ of your brand. Archetypes help you build trust with your customer, remain relevant to the competition, and define your internal culture.
Archetypes also help you assess the competition and find your position in the landscape. Even though two companies might seek to solve the same problem, they can do so with different personalities and in turn connect with different consumer audiences. Even within the same company, different archetypes can help reach different audiences. Consider a large car manufacturer like Honda that positions its brand as a whole as innovative, safe, and sustainable. However, they employ sub archetypes to market different vehicles. The Honda Odyssey minivan is The Caregiver: transporting a family safely comfortably. Yet the Honda Accord sedan aligns better with The Everyman: reliable, adaptable, and affordable.
Archetypes apply to brand strategy for both B2C and B2B companies. Businesses are made of people who all have their own core motivations—and those of their brand—to bring to the table. By speaking to the archetype of your B2B prospects and their organizations, you can form a connection that will lead to a sale, or at least that second meeting.
In fact, a recent study found that 80% of B2B buyers now expect the same buying experience as B2C. Brand archetypes are a great shortcut to delivering on this experience in your marketing.
The Brand Archetype Wheel
The wheel has become a useful way to see all 12 archetypes at once, and understand the ways they connect and differentiate from one another.
At the center of the wheel, you’ll find the four core motivations Jung identified.
- To Make an Impression
- To Connect to Others
- To Provide Structure
- To Yearn for Paradise
Archetypes can share these core motivations, but seek them out with a unique human desire, seen in the colorful, middle-section of the wheel. Jung looked to myths and stories to collate these archetypes by following universal behaviors and linking them to their personalities & desires.
- The Outlaw desires Liberation
- The Hero desires Mastery
- The Wizard desires Belief
- The Jester desires Enjoyment
- The Everyman desires Belonging
- The Lover desires Intimacy
- The Sage desires Understanding
- The Innocent desires Safety
- The Explorer desires Freedom
- The Creator desires Innovation
- The Ruler desires Control
- The Caregiver desires Service
Examples of Brand Archetypes
Let’s think about shoes. They all serve the same function: you wear them on your feet to help you get around. But think about the role shoes can play in a person’s story and how shoes can be cast into different roles with their own purpose and meaning. Shoe brands use a consistent archetype to respond to a customer’s deep desire, and the relationship between a product and its consumer becomes more emotional.
- Nike is The Hero when their sneakers help you run faster.
- Birkenstock sandals are The Caregiver, supporting you with comfort that will last a lifetime.
- Christian Louboutin heels are The Lover, making you feel beautiful and sexy.
- Timberland hiking boots become The Explorer ready to handle any adventure you throw at it.
- Lace-up a pair of Vans and you’re The Outlaw, standing out from the crowd.
- Adidas positions itself as The Creator with its focus on excellence through innovation.
- Converse takes on The Everyman, appealing to people of all walks of life.
- Vivo Barefoot shoes are The Sage, using scientific research to reconnect you with nature.
- On Cloud is The Magician, a pro runner and an engineer invent the perfect running experience.
- Crocs have become The Jester, bringing happiness, joy, and humor to the comfort shoe.
- Gucci is the Ruler, a wearable luxury that shows your status and power.
- Allbirds are The Innocent, transforming wool into a simple, sustainable shoe.
How to Identify your Brand Archetype
Just like people, every brand’s story revolves around a core motivation that influences its behavior, desires, and values. Think of it as the why of your business. If you want to try and identify your archetype, we recommend you start by zeroing in on your motivation. Here are some questions to get you started.
Are you motivated by making an impression?
Do you consider your brand a risk-taker, a change-maker, or maybe even a rule-breaker? Whether it’s through revolution, excellence, or imagination, these brands inspire and empower their customers to be the best versions of themselves. Making an impression on the world is a duty, a privilege, and a calling.
If so, you may align with the Outlaw, Magician, or Hero.
Are you motivated by connecting with others?
Does your brand value the simple joys in life? Or does your brand evoke emotions and sensory experiences? Or is your brand all about living life to the fullest? Whether it’s through belonging, intimacy, or enjoyment, these brands want to help their customers enjoy life. Connecting with others is a pleasure, a joy, and a purpose.
If so, you may align with the Everyman, Jester, or Lover.
Are you motivated by a yearning for paradise?
Does your brand empower independent thinking? Does your brand cut through the noise to give simple, honest solutions? Is your brand a pioneer, unafraid of the great unknown? Whether it’s through safety, understanding, or freedom, these brands want to empower their customers in their search for an authentic and fulfilling life. Yearning for paradise is a rule of life, an uncharted territory, and a spiritual awakening.
If so, you may align with the Creator, Innocent, or Sage.
Are you motivated by providing structure?
Is your brand motivated by the greater good, helping people or families find contentment? Does your brand stand at the top of its game with a luxury product that gives status or stability? Does your brand bring something completely fresh to the landscape or inspire your customers to create and solve problems? Whether it’s through innovation, control or service, these brands help their customers manifest something meaningful. Providing structure is a service, an opportunity, and a responsibility.
If so, you may align with the Creator, Ruler, or Caregiver.
When you use an archetype and a motivation in your branding, your relationship with your customer transcends the transactional, and you both achieve a deeper and more meaningful goal.
Brand Strategy for Each Archetype
With your core motivation narrowed down, you can now zoom in on which of the three archetypes most resonates with your brand. Remember, your customer may align with a different archetype than your brand, but it’s important to understand both. The Hero brand can connect deeply with a customer that aligns with The Innocent. But an Outlaw consumer may not resonate with a brand that presents as a stern Ruler.
Explore our guides on each set of Archetypes to dig deeper into who you are as a brand.
- Brands that Make an Impression
- Brands that Connect to Others
- Brands that Provide Structure
- Brands that Yearn for Paradise
Ready to Embrace your Archetype for Greater Brand Relevance?
We’ve walked through the process with clients for more than 30 years, and we’d love to help you identify and embrace your brand archetype. Contact us to talk about how we can help you.