Why Your Company Needs a Brand Archetype

One of the biggest challenges companies face is focus. There are a million opportunities in front of you and saying no is often harder than saying yes -- especially when increasing revenue and happy shareholders become the most important goal. But that kind of focus is what makes for a strong brand. Focus and consistency means the market and your customers know who you are and what you stand for. 

This is where a single brand archetype comes in. 

What's a brand archetype?

An archetype is an idea that represents a pattern of universal behavior in people. In branding, it's used as a role you consistently play in the market. There are 12 archetypes. I'll give you a rough rundown here, but you should check out The Hero and the Outlaw by Margaret Mark if you want a more in-depth look. It's a fun, easy read. 

  1. The Innocent

    • The wide-eyed innocent, focused on bringing optimism and pure happiness
    • Coca-Cola, Pillsbury
  2. The Regular Guy 

    • The Tom Hanks of the world, who believes everyone has worth and strives to be a supportive, down to earth pal
    • Home Depot, Trader Joe's
  3. The Hero

    • The bold, confident, expert advocate who will throw you over his/her shoulder and rush you out of the burning building
    • BMW, Nike
  4. The Liberator / Outlaw

    • The rebel who constantly seeks change and disruption, paving the way forward to dethrone the industry leaders
    • Virgin, Harley Davidson
  5. The Seeker 

    • The explorer, discovering new paths and experiences, focused on the individual and independence
    • Red Bull, The North Face
  6. The Creator 

    • The artist and visionary focused on expressing meaning and value in the everyday
    • Lego, Google
  7. The Ruler 

    • The controller, focused on order and being the role model, leader, and responsible one; the older sister.
    • Microsoft, Mercedes-Benz
  8. The Magician

    • Making dreams come true through imagination and special moments; focused on inspiring change through shared ideals
    • Disney, Polaroid
  9. The Lover

    • The passionate, committed romantic, inspiring love and delightful moments
    • Haagen-Dazs , Victoria's Secret
  10. The Caregiver

    • he compassionate, generous protector there to care for others over themselves
    • Johnson and Johnson, Campbell's Soup
  11. The Jester

    • The mischievous, light-hearted fun-deliverer, focused on making sure everyone is focused on a good time and enjoying the moment
    • Ben & Jerry's, Cheetos
  12. The Sage

    • The wise mentor, sharing intelligent expertise and experience to gain trust
    • BBC, Thomson Reuters

Why is having an brand archetype useful?

An archetype is a role your brand plays in the market. It's who your audience looks to you to be. By sticking to one archetype, you as a brand know how to communicate, how to look, how to interact with your customers. 

If you're a Hero brand, your job is to advocate for your customers needs above all else. You're likely not going to hand them a bunch of paperwork and say "good luck, pal." if you're a hero brand. You're going to sit with them, talk through their options, and have a smart, well-backed-up point of view on what steps they should take. You'll say no to ad campaigns that come across as cheeky or contrarian because that tone would break the expert advocate trust you're looking to build with the market. 

On the flip side, if you're a Jester, your job is to bring fun and spontaneity. You'd see ad campaigns in the form of flash mobs (though, lord, please don't do another flash mob) or guerrilla marketing not a traditional print or direct mailer unless it poked fun at traditional ways of campaigning. You focus on surprise and delight and being the brand your customers want to hang out with at a party, not so much at a board meeting. 

Archetypes give you an objective reason to say yes or no to a new product, a rebrand strategy, a new marketing initiative. It builds trust with the market. It creates consistency in the minds of your customers. And it makes your job a whole lot easier.