The following is a guest post written by Jon Mowat. His bio is at the end of the article.
In his theory of collective unconscious, the psychologist Carl Jung describes archetypes as images and thoughts which have universal meanings and that transcend cultures, showing up as dreams, literature, art or even in religion.
In the same way that human beings create these universal patterns and images that can fall into a number of archetypes, so brands too can uphold various characteristics that define them across cultures and can be seen as archetypes.
Brand archetypes are also extremely useful to marketers in ascertaining brand identity and positioning their strategies and approaches accordingly. Their identification and adoption is part of the process of laying out emotional appeals in marketing strategy, which stands in contrast to more logical marketing appeals, which are denoted by hard facts and competitive advantage.
An archetype can be a symbol, character or category which is adopted by a particular brand and is then used to define them. This anthropomorphisaton of brands into human tropes is a powerful way for marketers to create identity and association within their target markets on a subconscious level. Although overlap between different archetypes is possible and no uncommon, most developed brand identities will often appear to fall naturally within a certain archetype.
The 12 archetypes
Although Jung’s archetypes could theoretically be limitless, he defined 12 distinct archetypal figures that most marketers have adopted to describe the different types of brand personalities, each with its own purpose, meaning, values, traits and mission statement. They are as follows:
- Hero – The hero is a champion brand and wants to make the world a better place. It aims to inspire and encourage and uses hard-hitting messages with a strong and bold image. Well-known brand names that come under the hero archetype include Nike and FedEx.
- Magician – The magician archetype is influential and visionary, transforming ideas and creating experiences. Disney is a top brand to fall in this category.
- Sage – Intelligence and information is at the heart of the sage archetype, with sharing, learning and growing key attributes. Google, CNN and Oprah are considered sage archetypes.
- Lover – Feelings, emotions, beauty and pleasure-seeking characterise the lover archetype. These brands will appeal to the senses with aesthetic appreciation of high importance. Top brand names in this category include Calvin Klein, Godiva and Victoria’s Secret.
- Explorer – Brands that are considered explorer archetypes are innovative, willing to try new things and strive to keep learning and growing. They have an individual, rugged image that makes use of active language that often appeals to the young. Explorer brands include Jeep, Subaru, North Face and Starbucks.
- Every-Person – The every-person archetype is approachable, authentic and hard-working. It seeks acceptance and belonging and strives to connect with all people. Well-known examples of this type include Ikea, Target and Covergirl.
- Ruler – An authoritative brand that is confident, influential and leads is considered a ruler archetype. It has a well-defined, polished image. Brand examples include Microsoft, American Express and Mercedes.
- Innocent – The innocent archetype likes the simple things in life. It is optimistic, trustworthy and likes to do the right thing. Top brand examples include Dove, Fisher Price and Ben and Jerry’s.
- Revolutionary – The revolutionary archetype likes to think outside the box. It believes rules are for breaking, and it takes a provocative, innovative and confident stance. Apple, MTV and Virgin Airlines are brand examples in this category.
- Jester – A jester archetype does not take life too seriously and is all about enjoyment and living in the moment. Jester brands include Ben and Jerry’s, Go Daddy and Old Spice.
- Caregiver – Nurturing, compassionate and generous, the caregiver archetype can be relied upon. Brands of this type include Campbell’s Soup, Proctor and Gamble and Volvo.
- Creator – The creator archetype likes to see the bigger picture. Imagination and innovation are core values, whilst self-expression is also a top attribute. Key brands include Apple, Martha Stewart and GE.
Many experts believe that the list of archetypes is not exhaustive, and that some brands often overlap between different types, or fall into entirely new archetypes altogether. What is crucial though, is that a brand needs to understand what its personality is so that it can market itself more efficiently and create a unique position in the minds of its consumers.
Even those businesses that consider themselves to be a mixture of different archetypes will usually find after close scrutiny of their brand that there is one type that tends to best describe what they’re all about.
Defining your archetype
In order to work out which archetype your brand falls into, you need to think about the roots or foundations of your brand. You need to get to grips with what makes your brand stand out from others and what your brand’s style or personality is.
Think about what values the brand and the people who work for it hold dear, and list all the different words to describe it. This is not an exercise that you need to do alone – in fact, it can be beneficial to include other members of staff who might be able to provide different viewpoints.
Once you have got these basic ideas in mind and formed a consensus, go through the individual archetypes one by one to see where your brand fits in. It might be easier to eliminate the ones you are surer about first so that you can narrow your options down.
If you are finding it hard to pinpoint a type, focus on the goal or method of each type. Consider some of the well-known brand examples of each archetype, and assess if your brand is the type that could relate to what these big names stand for.
You may find that you end up with one or two types that do not seem that similar, but when you put them together they could well match your brand ethos perfectly. It is worth noting that as a business, and its brand evolves over time, the specific archetype might shift in the future to reflect changes, although as a rule, once an archetype is set its best from a brand identity point of view, to stick to it.
Exploiting archetypes for marketing purposes
Knowing your specific archetype can make marketing strategies a lot easier to implement. It can help you to target your campaigns and make it simpler to create specific messages and images that you want to get across to the right audience. If you adopt a consistent approach on the basis of your archetype profile, it can help build brand recognition amongst consumers and create awareness of what you are all about and the unique story that you have got to tell.
Jon Mowat is a former BBC film-maker and now runs British-based video production and marketing company, Hurricane Media. Over the years he has used video to help many well known brands such as Canon, Sony, BMW and Peugeot create and reinforce their own brand archetypes. You can follow Hurricane on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.