Brand Archetypes: here is how big brands do it.
What exactly are archetypes?
The strict father, the gorgeous diva, the callous heartbreaker, the popular athlete, the eternal virgin... Most book, art and film enthusiasts have probably already noticed these timeless characters that keep showing up in our popular culture. Such characters are archetypes, and they are universally recognised personalities. On a daily basis we receive a huge input of different stimuli. In order to manage these, our brain automatically looks for patterns and groups certain stimuli together. We are all, always making categories for everything.
Archetypes trigger your gut feeling.
Even more interesting is that we assign a feeling to each box we put people in. Why is that? Research has shown that due to a highly saturated market people buy and consume more based on intuition. ‘Shopping by gut feeling’ as it were. Nowadays, positioning your brand solely on price and quality? Hello, 2018 is on the phone and they want their outdated sales strategies back! That is not the way to go. What you want is your ideal customer to categorise your brand in the right way. Being pigeonholed in a way that it triggers positive feelings.
At the beginning of the 20th century Carl Jung first defined 12 ‘universal and archaic symbols and images that emerge from the collective unconscious’. Almost a century later, Dr. Carol Pearson expanded on Jung’s work and applied these theories to business. The result? The 12 Brand Archetypes.
Discovering the 12 Brand Archetypes
The Innocent archetype is about Safety. We think of brands like Dove, Coca-Cola, Cottonelle, McDonalds
The everyman archetype is about Belonging. We think of brands like Ikea, Home Depot, eBay, Pinterest, Toyota, Jarderi
The Hero archetype is about Mastery. We think of brands like Tesla, Nike, BMW, Duracell, Marvel, Qarb
The Outlaw or Rebel archetype is about Liberation. We think of brands like Harley-Davidson, Diesel, Virgin, PayPal
The Explorer archetype is about Freedom. We think of brands like Jeep, Red Bull, The North Face, REI, Bodyshop, Gutsy
The Creator archetype is about Innovation. We think of brands like Lego, Crayola, Apple, Adobe, Sony, Figma, Reyu
The Ruler archetype is about Control. We think of brands like Microsoft, Barclays, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex, Hugo Boss, American Express, British Airways
The Magician archetype is about Imagination. We think of brands like Dyson, Disney, Xbox, Apple, Absolut
The Lover archetype is about Initimacy. We think of brands like Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, Marie Claire, Hallmark, Chanel, Haagen Dasz, Karamel
The Caregiver archetype is about Service. We think of brands like Campbell’s Soup, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz, Google, Unicef
The Jester archetype is about Enjoyment. We think of brands like Motley Fool, Ben & Jerry’s, Netflix, Reeses, Skittles, Mailchimp, M&M's, El Citadel
The Sage archetype is about Understanding. We think of brands like BBC, PBS, Google, Philips, TED
How to use brand archetypes? The ideal script
When you find out which Brand Archetype is the best fit for your brand, you end up with a script that can guide all your external communication. It tells you in detail which tone-of-voice, content, strategy and visuals best suit your brand. And you don’t have to take that too far. If, for example, your archetype is The Rebel, nobody expects you to be on the barricades in guerrilla gear. However, what is important is to give a small rebellious twist to every piece of communication and to keep your archetype in mind with every strategic choice you make.
Big players like Mercedes-Benz, LEGO or M&M don’t have an enormous following because of some mysterious ingredient. Rather, they owe their success to a meticulously curated brand persona that is applied consistently and vigorously . How do they do that exactly? We’re happy to give you a few examples!
Mercedes-Benz: example of a Ruler Brand Archetype
With a slogan like "The best or nothing", there is no doubt that Mercedes-Benz is implementing The Ruler archetype.
Presidential brands are always high-end. They breathe luxury and have a keen focus on exclusivity and quality. All this is reflected in the Mercedes-Benz cars. They represent top German quality and owning a Mercedes immediately represents status. Of all the archetypes, The President is the one least likely to lose control because of his enormous sense of responsibility and desire to dominate.
The President's customer base consists of people that love status and are a touch of alpha. Patronising or simplistic advertisements don’t work with them. Rather, the President’s communication will have to primarily cater to their clients’ hunger for control and prestige.
The 'King of the City Jungle' commercial by Mercedes-Benz clearly demonstrates the play on the President archetype. The lion, as the king of the animal kingdom, stands unquestionably at the top of the food chain and it serves as a metaphor for the alphas of the business world. He is the master of a successful start-up, but his day isn’t running smoothly and that does not help his mood. Fortunately, thanks to Mood Changing Technology, his stress melts away like snow in the sun.
LEGO: example of a Creator Brand Archetype
The Artist is the creative spirit among the archetypes. Its ultimate mission is to encourage everyone to discover their artistic self. Self-expression is high on the agenda and an Artist brand loves everything that is unique or extraordinary. These brands always strive for innovation and different perspectives and they do so with the greatest creativity and imagination.
LEGO encourages children to let their creativity run wild and (literally and figuratively) to keep building their fantasy world endlessly.
Generally, Artist brands aren’t fond of advertising, though they can appreciate experimental and groundbreaking advertisements. This was the first time in 30 years (!) that LEGO launched an international marketing campaign. According to LEGO, 'Rebuild The World' celebrates the power of creativity and the ability to change the world.
In the commercial for this campaign, we get to see a malleable world full of possibilities. It shows how LEGO helps create a more free, fun and above all playful world.
M&M: example of a Jester Brand Archetype
"Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”
The Jester is the real class-clown: playful, curious and cheerful. Humor is their biggest strength and their answer to just about every situation. Jesters believe life is too short to take everything seriously. These brands attract people with their light-heartedness and their ability to add brightness to any situation. Their marketing is often aimed at a somewhat younger audience that can appreciate their jokes.
M&M's multicolored sweets fully embody the spirit of this archetype. Point in case: their main color is yellow, which is the brightest color within color psychology. Yellow triggers associations with energy, enthusiasm and fun. In addition, the sweets were animated into funny, living creatures and each color was given its own personality. These comical little characters make for a lot of hilarity in M&M’s commercials.
Want to know which Archetype best suits your brand?
Take our simple quiz and find out exactly which Brand Archetype you are in less than 10 minutes.