Being able to understand the archetype of your brand, and that of your competitors, is a powerful tool in a marketers shed! It can be used to produce content, review branding, or understand competitor dynamics.
You may have heard a reference to archetypes being thrown around in different presentations, discussions or from Contemporary Consumer Behaviour back in semester 1. What a Hero. Typical Jester! That’s out of character! But what is it all about? What are archetypes, and how can marketers use them to better position the brand and communicate to their audience with a consistent approach?
What is an Archetype?
To the story teller or writer, consider Robin Hood as the outlaw, or Bart Simpson as the rebel. An archetype is basically a personality or type of character for the brand.
Archetypes stem from the work of psychologists Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. They were applied to marketing in The Hero and the Outlaw, a book by Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson. In this book, they translate Jung’s work into 12 archetypes that are at work in branding.
Officially, an Archetype is outlined in the image below…
The 12 Archetypes
There are 12 Brand Archetypes mapped in the matrix below, which were identified by Mark and Pearson, operate in one of four quadrants.
- Discovery/Knowledge: The Innocent, The Explorer, The Sage
- Vision/Structure: The Creator, The Ruler, The Hero
- Belonging/Care: The Lover, The Regular Guy, The Nurturer
- Change/Risk: The Outlaw, The Magician, The Jester.
Let’s take a look at them in detail.
Goal: To be happy
Traits: Strives to be good, is pure, young, optimistic, simple, moral, romantic, loyal
Drawback: Could be naïve or boring
Marketing niche: Companies with strong values, seen as trustworthy, reliable and honest, associated with morality, good virtues, simplicity, can be nostalgic
Example: Dove soap, Coca-Cola, Cottonelle bathroom tissue
Goal: Finds fulfilment through discovery and new experiences
Traits: Restless, adventurous, ambitious, individualistic, independent, pioneering
Drawback: Might not fit into the mainstream
Marketing niche: Exciting, risk-taking, authentic
Example: Indiana Jones, Jeep, Red Bull
Goal: To help the world gain wisdom and insight
Traits: Knowledgeable, trusted source of information, wisdom and intelligence, thoughtful, analytical, mentor, guru, advisor
Drawback: Could be overly contemplative or too opinionated
Marketing niche: Help people to better understand the world, provide practical information and analysis
Example: BBC, PBS, Google, Philips
Goal: Create something with meaning and enduring value
Traits: Creative, imaginative, artistic, inventive, entrepreneur, non-conformist
Drawback: Could be perfectionistic or impractical
Marketing niche: Visionary, help customers express or create, and foster their imagination
Example: Lego, Crayola
Goal: Control, create order from chaos
Traits: Leader, responsible, organized, role model, administrator
Drawback: Could lack a common connection, or be too authoritative or controlling
Marketing niche: Help people become more organized, restore order, create more stability and security in a chaotic world
Example: Microsoft, Barclays, Mercedes-Benz
Goal: Help to improve the world
Traits: Courageous, bold, honourable, strong, confident, inspirational
Drawback: Could be arrogant or aloof
Marketing niche: Make a positive mark on the world, solve major problems or enable/inspire others to do so
Example: Nike, BMW, Duracell
Goal: Create intimacy, inspire love
Traits: Passionate, sensual, intimate, romantic, warm, committed, idealistic
Drawback: Could be too selfless or not grounded enough
Marketing niche: Help people feel appreciated, belong, connect, enjoy intimacy, build relationships
Example: Victoria’s Secret, Godiva Chocolate, Marie Claire
The Regular Guy
Goal: To belong, or connect with others
Traits: Down to earth, supportive, faithful, folksy, person next door, connects with others
Drawback: Could lack a distinctive identity and blend in too much
Marketing niche: Common touch, solid virtues, gives a sense of belonging
Example: Home Depot, eBay
Goal: To care for and protect others
Traits: Caring, maternal, nurturing, selfless, generous, compassionate
Drawback: Being taken advantage of, taken for granted, or exploited
Marketing niche: Help people care for themselves, serve the public through health care, education or aid programs
Example: Mother Theresa, Campbell’s Soup, Johnson & Johnson, Heinz
Goal: Break the rules and fight authority
Traits: Rebellious, iconoclastic, wild, paving the way for change
Drawback: Could take it too far and be seen in a negative way
Marketing niche: Agent of change, advocate for the disenfranchised, allow people to vent or break with conventions
Example: Harley-Davidson, Virgin (Richard Branson)
Goal: Make dreams come true, create something special
Traits: Visionary, charismatic, imaginative, idealistic, spiritual
Drawback: Could take risks that lead to bad outcomes
Marketing niche: Help people transform their world, inspire change, expand consciousness
Example: Disney, Wizard of Oz, Apple
Goal: To bring joy to the world
Traits: Fun, sense of humour, light-hearted, mischievous, irreverent
Drawback: Could be seen as frivolous or disrespectful
Marketing niche: Help people have a good time or enjoy what they are doing, allow people to be more impulsive and spontaneous
Example: Motley Fool, Ben & Jerry’s, IKEA
How can Archetypes be used?
A brand archetype should be integrated into all aspects of marketing, and communicated consistently to customers.
The way your brand speaks, writes and communicates should align with your archetype. If you are a
If Darth Vader were to make a joke about light-sabres, it would be out of character. This inconsistent approach would undermine his position. The same is true for brands.
Your logo, colours, font and imagery should also consistently communicate your archetype. Darth Vader wearing pink shoes? Yeah…you get the point! How your image comes across can re-affirm your position, or initiate a PR nightmare!
What does your category look like? The not-for-profit sector could be seen as an innocent category, but brands operating within that can align differently. Understanding the dynamic within your competitor set can uncover an opportunity, or allow you to exploit a weakness in their archetype.
So as you can see, brand archetypes can be a powerful marketing tool. Brands with a strong, clearly communicated personality are more likely to resonate longer with consumers. Understanding the position of your brand and competitors can produce more effective content and inform branding.
To learn more about building brands, take a look at The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, by Mark & Pearson (2001). Slideshare looks at archetype groups more in detail in an Archetype Overview From The Hero And The Outlaw.
The research of Faber and Mayer (2009) is the basis for an analysis measuring participant attitudes toward popular brands by matching them with archetypal descriptions and explores possible correlation between product category and archetype. And for a cross-cultural analysis about Points of View & Brand Personality, go no further than Millward Brown.