Bland identity? You need archetypes

Beanz means Heinz, right? No alternative will cut it. Our Macbooks rule all – in fact the thought of another branded laptop is practically laughable. And why do we instantly feel warm and fuzzy when the Coca Cola advert swings round every December? You know it – that feeling when you connect to a company that you just can’t put your finger on. 

Characters in movies and stories are immediately familiar to us because they’re part of our ‘collective unconscious’, according to psychologist Carl Jung. These are known as archetypes. Meaning ‘original pattern’ in Ancient Greece, archetypes are the characters you can hear the story patterns of again and again, in whatever format, in whatever country, in whatever century… and never tire of. 

The brands you feel a bond with are built within this unconscious, using archetypes that root back to ancient systems and stories. It’s that feeling that tells us “oooh yes, this one’s for me” or “this brand just feels right”.

They tap into four human desires deep within us. Each archetype seeks to realise the following:

  1. EGO (leaving our thumbprint on the world)
  2. ORDER (giving structure to the world)
  3. SOCIAL (connecting to others)
  4. FREEDOM (the desire for paradise)

In The Outlaw and the Hero, authors Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson state that archetypes “defy the “pick some characteristics from column A and some from column B” practice of creating brand identity; rather, these ancient psychic imprints are whole and complete concepts, demanding to be fully realised and deployed”.

Let’s start by naming them all. There may be some that relate to your brand more than others. You can choose if you want to express it and manage it in your brand identity, your marketing strategies, your work and even your life. Learn the facts and you’ll have less chance of implementing a confused, mixed-up brand identity.

The 12 archetypes you need to know

The Hero

They’re courageous, determined and competent. Nike was the Greek goddess of speed, strength and victory. 

Brand examples: Nike, Ariel, Snickers

The Creator

They craft new things of enduring value and give form to visions. 

Brand examples: LEGO, Apple, Crayola

The Caregiver

Mary Poppins with umbrella
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

They care for others and protect them from harm – a “love thy neighbour’ way of living. 

Brand examples: Persil, Huggies, Heinz

The Ruler

HBO

They exert control and are natural leaders. 

Brand examples: American Express, Microsoft, Rolex

The Jester

New Line

They live in the moment, lighten up a room and play a lot. Enjoyment in the everything is their philosophy. 

Brand examples: M&Ms, Skittles, Budweiser

The Regular Guy/Gal

Warner Bros.

They’re okay just as they are, believe everyone is created equal and connect well with others. Empathetic, not pretentious and have ordinary yet solid virtues. 

Brand examples: PG Tips, John Smiths, IKEA

The Lover

They find and give love, keep intimacy and experience sensual pleasure. Passion, gratitude, relationships and commitment are their strong points.

Brand examples: Chanel, Hallmark, Haagen-Daz

The Rebel

In the eyes of the Rebel, rules are made to be broken. They’re radical in their freedom and fear powerlessness, wanting to disrupt, destroy or shock systems that aren’t working.

Brand examples: Harley Davidson, Virgin

The Magician

Warner Bros.

With their knowledge of how the world works, they can affect transformations. Their goal is to make dreams come true – so they develop visions and make them happen.

Brand examples: Disney, iPod, Red Bull

The Innocent

They desire to retain or renew faith in order to be happy. Nostalgic and optimistic.

Brand examples: Coca Cola, Dove, Innocent Drinks

The Explorer

Disney

A true independent constantly seeking to experience a more authentic, fulfilling life.They’re all about seeking out and experiencing new things, are highly ambitious and true to themselves. Non-conformist. 

Brand example: Levis, Starbucks, Jeep 

The Sage

Warner Bros.

The understanding Sage is always on the pursuit of the truth. With intelligence and analysis, they have a strong grasp on the world and never feel the need to act upon their studies. Instead, they become self reflective, wise and experts at analysing the thinking process.

Brand examples: Google, BBC, Audi

How exciting! A complete collection of heritage, buried deep in the psyche of us all, that can defy space, time and culture and help brands thrive – even today. But archetypes should be thoroughly researched and properly managed before diving in. And they should not be used to manipulate, as Mark and Pearson explain here:

“When you tap into the archetypal dimension – deliberately or by accident – these energies become activated in and around you. Whether or not they are expressed in a moral and healthy way depends on the consciousness of the person (or the company) evoking them. The more knowledgeable you are about archetypes, however, the more they can serve, metaphorically speaking, as your allies.”

Of course, this is a ridiculously brief look at archetypes – Jung’s greatest work and the keys to opening many doors with our brand identities. Archetypes and the human psyche is an impossibly rich area to delve into in one blog post, so I’ll be sharing more of the 12 types in detail in future pieces. 

But what I can tell you for certain is this: Archetypes give value. Archetypes unlock your unique personality and make you stand out in a cookie-cutter world. And archetypes keep your brand comprehensible – in turn attracting a loyal client base.

If you want to chat about your own archetype and map out a brand voice that doesn’t feel like Ryvita for the ears (soz, Ryvita), let’s do it.