How to dis­cover your com­pa­ny’s voice with brand ar­che­types


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.

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Rhiannon Stevens

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