In Jungian psychological theory, an archetype is a 'mental image'. It defines the reactions and aptitudes which determine an individual's life in invisible ways. A brand archetype is therefore the fundamental qualities of an organization or company that help to give it a unique voice. Brand archetypes are incredibly useful from a marketing perspective because they provide a practical guide for content production and copywriting. More broadly, however, they define a company's personality and how it will be perceived both internally and externally.
The twelve archetypes were lifted from Jung's original theories by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson's 2001 book, "The Hero and the Outlaw". This game-changing book describes in detail how brands can use their archetype as part of their overall company strategies. Today, brand archetypes are used by Fortune 500 companies and other successful organisations around the world. You too can empower your company's strategy by first discovering, and then leaning in to its brand archetype.
Meet the Twelve Brand Archetypes
- The Innocent: Happy, optimistic and humble. Demonstrating a sense of wholesomeness, safety and purity. Example: Dove, Aveeno, Coca-Cola
- Everyman: This brand archetype is all about being approachable and easy-going. It conveys a sense of connection, belonging and familiarity. Example: Ikea, Lynx, Target
- Hero: Noble and on a mission to improve the world. These brands position themselves as being courageous and inspirational. Example: Nike, Adidas, Duracell, FedEx
- Outlaw: "Rules are made to be broken!" For those companies which define themselves as rebellious, revolutionary, wild and authentic. Examples: Virgin Airlines, Harley Davidson, DKNY
- Explorer: Wants to discover new things, travel and leave a legacy based on fearlessness. Examples: The North Face, Amazon, Patagonia, Starbucks
- Creator: Innovative and inventive, these brands are focused on creating things which are meaningful and enduring. Examples: Tesla, Adobe, Lego
- Ruler: Responsible, orderly, an oasis of calm amidst the chaos. Authority figures who embody excellence and refinement. Examples: Microsoft, IBM, Rolex
- Magician: Focused on turning dreams into reality and creating special, unique experiences that dazzle. Sometimes associated with brands that evoke spirituality or a sense of mysticism. Examples: Disney, Pixar, Apple
- Lover: Inspiring intimacy, beauty, romance and passion and feelings of luxury. Examples: Victoria's Secret, Godiva Chocolate, Gucci.
- Caregiver: Protective, nurturing and compassionate, this archetype is perfect for brands which convey a sense of safety. Examples: UNICEF, WWF, Red Cross, Dettol
- Jester: "Let's laugh and have fun!" Mischievous, irreverent and playful, these brands convey their messages with humour. Examples: Air New Zealand, MailChimp, Geico
- Sage: Characterised as being experienced and full of wisdom, these brands position themselves as mentors and advisors. Examples: The Washington Post, BBC, Harvard University
How to choose your brand archetype
WorkingMouse is undergoing a rejuvenation of its existing brand, an exciting process which has involved the selection of an archetype. Members of our marketing and design teams were actively involved in identifying the 'voice' of WorkingMouse.
We first began by listing out the archetypes in similar manner to the section above and identifying well-known companies which were established within their niche. It was important for us to have a very clear understanding of each archetype and how it could play into our existing content strategies and overall company vision.
After some internal discussions, we moved on to some sample copywriting activities. This involved selecting a small passage of text from a piece of current marketing collateral (in our case, our website) and re-writing it from the perspective of each of the twelve brand archetypes. Immediately, the strengths of each archetype became quite clear, as well as an indication of which strengths would be needed to better communicate our knowledge to partners.
This copywriting activity spurred on another interesting round of meetings, where the list of archetypes was narrowed down to a handful. It was at this point that we noted that many companies combine two, sometimes even three, archetypes, to better represent the facets of their brand. We re-did the copywriting activity from earlier, only this time, we re-wrote a passage of text from the perspective of different pairings of archetypes. We felt that two archetypes working in tandem worked best in expressing not only what solutions WorkingMouse provides, but how we work with our valued partners to create these solutions.
Finally, WorkingMouse was able to define the two archetypes underpinning our brand strategy: the Sage and the Creator. As Sages, we aim to provide transparent messaging to our partners, and work with them to share our knowledge. We firmly believe that it is through education and research that we will be able to create amazing products and experiences. On the other hand, we are also Creators because we love the creative process and aim to create innovative products which have enduring value.
There are no set rules for how to choose a brand archetype. This decision can be made after a myriad of activities or even just a few frank discussions with relevant members of your team. There are a variety of possible selection methods available online or via books which discuss this very topic. If your company does not have a brand archetype defined yet, we encourage you to get started and discover yours! Finding your brand archetype will benefit your company by empowering your team with the tools they need to provide clear messaging to your customers. Ultimately, a brand archetype can effectively tie your marketing strategy together and ensure that your unique value proposition doesn't get lost in the crowd.