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Brand Design and Its Archetypes

What does brand marketing and story telling have in common? A lot more than you might think.

When thinking of branding anything, such as a corporate logo or product name, it’s important to remember that you are creating and telling a story about that company or product. Good brand marketing tells a story, conveying what the brand thinks morally about the world and its place in it. In essence, brands are becoming more like people. Much of the success of a brand and its story depends on your personality and making sure that it fits your intended audience.

So, how do you tell the right story for your company and create the right brand?  It helps to use the right tools. One tool that seems to have been largely forgotten, and I think deserves some resurrection, is the use of Archetypes to find the right “personality” for your brand and then go from there to create the right look and feel.

Most people get the idea of archetypes. Archetypes are universally understood symbols or patterns of behavior that are used in myths and storytelling across different cultures. They are sort of like a stereotype or a generic personality. There are 12 Archetypes: The Innocent, The Regular Guy/Gal, The Explorer, The Sage, The Hero, The Outlaw, The Magician, The Jester, The Caregiver, The Creator, The Ruler, and The Lover.

Let’s take a look at what each Archetype signifies and some brands that exemplify its characteristics.

1. The Innocent

AKA: Utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, dreamer.
Desire: to get to paradise
Goal: to be happy
How: to do things right
Strength: faith and optimism

Good for brands that:

  • offer a simple solution to an identifiable problem and are associated with goodness, good morality, simplicity, nostalgia or childhood
  • are low- or moderately-priced
  • are produced by a company with straightforward values that need to be differentiated from brands with poor reputations

Innocent brands:  Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Ben & Jerry’s

2. The Regular Guy/Girl

AKA: The good old boy, the girl/guy next door, the realist, the working stiff, the solid citizen, the good neighbor
Desire: connecting with others
Goal: to belong
How: develop ordinary solid virtues, be down to earth, the common touch
Strength: realism, empathy, lack of pretense

Good for brands that:

  • want to give people a sense of belonging
  • represent an everyday functionality, think supermarkets
  • have low to moderate prices
  • are produced by a solid company with a down-home organizational culture
  • need to be differentiated in a positive way from more elitist or higher-priced brands

Regular guy/gal brands include: IKEA, CB2, Wendy’s, Walmart


3. The Explorer

AKA: The seeker, wanderer, individualist
Desire: the freedom to find out who you are through exploring the world
Goal: to experience a better, more authentic, more fulfilling life
How: journey, seeking out and experiencing new things, escape from boredom
Strength: autonomy, ambition, being true to one’s soul

Good for brands that:

  • want to help people feel free, nonconformist or pioneering
  • are rugged and sturdy, for use in the great outdoors or in dangerous settings
  • help people express their individuality
  • are for convenience for when you’re on the go
  • want to differentiate themselves from a successful regular guy/gal brand or “conformist brand”
  • have an explorer culture that creates new, innovative products and/or experiences

Explorer brands:  Virgin, Jeep, Marlboro, Starbucks, REI

4. The Sage

AKA: The expert, scholar, detective, advisor, thinker, philosopher, academic, researcher, thinker, planner, professional, mentor, teacher, contemplative
Desire: to find the truth
Goal: to use intelligence and analysis to understand the world
How: seeking out information and knowledge through self-reflection and understanding thought processes
Strength: wisdom, intelligence

Good for brands that:

  • provide expertise or information to customers
  • encourage customers to think
  • are based on new scientific findings or esoteric knowledge
  • are supported by research-based facts
  • want to differentiate themselves from others whose quality or performance is suspect

Some scholarly brands:  CNN, PBS, The New York Times

5. The Hero

AKA: The warrior, crusader, rescuer, superhero, soldier, dragon slayer, winner and team player 
Desire: to prove one’s worth through courageous acts
Goal: expert mastery in a way that improves the world
How: to be as strong and competent as possible
Strength: competence and courage

Good for brands that:

  • have innovations that will have a major impact on the world
  • help people to be their best
  • want to solve a major social problem or encourage others to do so
  • are underdogs or challengers
  • are strong and help people to do tough jobs exceptionally well
  • want to be differentiated from competitors that make false promises or claims
  • need the public to see them as good, upstanding citizens

Heroic brands: Nike, Fed Ex, The Marines


6. The Outlaw

AKA: The rebel, revolutionary, wild man, misfit
Desire: revenge or revolution
Goal: to overturn what isn’t working
How: disrupt, destroy, or shock
Strength: outrageousness, radical freedom, radical self-expression

Good for brands that:

  • have customers or employees who feel disenfranchised from society
  • help retain values that are threatened by emerging ones or pave the way for revolutionary new attitudes
  • are low- to moderately-priced
  • break with industry conventions

Outlaw brands include: Diesel Jeans, Harley-Davidson, Apple


7. The Magician

AKA:The visionary, inventor, shaman, healer, medicine man
Desire: understanding the fundamental laws of the universe
Goal: to make dreams come true
How: develop a vision and live by it
Strength: finding win-win solutions

Good for brands that:

  • have an implicit promise to transform customers
  • maybe are (dare I say) hippy dippy; think holistic foods, medicines, high-end home remedies
  • are consciousness-expanding
  • have the power to transform for the better
  • are medium- to high-priced
  • have products or services that are transformative; think salons and spas

Magical brands: Axe, Whole Foods, Oil of Olay


8. The Lover

AKA: The partner, friend, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, spouse
 intimacy and experience through sensual pleasure
Goal: to be in a relationship with people; to have beautiful experiences and be surrounded with little luxuries and things you love
How: to become more physically and emotionally attractive
Strength: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment

Good for brands that:

  • help people be part of a crowd, help find friends or dating partners
  • are maybe a little romantic
  • want to be give people experiences they love
  • help people have a good time
  • need to differentiate from pretentious, established brands

Lover brands: Godiva, Herbal Essences, Häägen-Dazs,  Jaguar


9. The Jester

AKA: The fool, trickster, joker, practical joker or comedian
 to live in the moment with full enjoyment
Goal: to have a great time and lighten up the world
How: be funny
Strength: happiness, playfulness

Good for brands that:

  • give people a sense of belonging
  • are about having a good time
  • are low- or moderately-priced
  • have a fun-loving company culture
  • need to be differentiated from highly-established brands

Examples of fun-loving brands:  Fanta, Old Spice, Pepsi


10. The Caregiver

AKA: The saint, mother, helper, side kick
Desire: to protect and care for others
Goal: to help others
How: doing things for others
Strength: compassion, generosity

Good for brands that:

  • give customers a competitive advantage because “the company cares”
  • support families from fast-food to minivans
  • want to be associated with nurturing; think cookies, juice boxes and even books
  • serve the public sector such as health care, education, or other aid programes
  • are non-profits
  • help people stay connected with and care about others
  • help people care for themselves

Examples of caregiver brands:  Volvo, Johnson & Johnson, GE


11. The Creator

AKA: The artist, inventor, innovator, musician, writer or dreamer
Desire: to create things of enduring value
Goal: to realize a vision
How: develop artistic control and skill
Strength: creativity and imagination

Good for brands that:

  • encourage self-expression
  • are artistic in design
  • want to differentiate themselves from ordinary brands
  • are DIY, crafty money savers
  • have a creative company culture

Some creator brands include:  Lego, Kodak, and Adobe


12. The Ruler

AKA: The boss, leader, aristocrat, king, queen, politician, role model
Desire: control
Goal: create a prosperous, successful family or community
How: exercise power
Strength: responsibility, leadership

Good for brands that:

  • have products used by executives, CEOs, business leaders, lawyers
  • make people get organized with their finances and health
  • empower people to maintain security in some way
  • are mid-tier to high-priced
  • want to be the clear leaders in their field or speciality
  • want to offer a sense of stability and comfort in a chaotic world

Ruling brands:  Intel, Mercedes-Benz, American Express



So, if you were are brand, which Archetype would you be?

Inspiration and credit


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