Noted psychologist Carl Jung is often credited with framing the concept of brand archetypes. He created 12 personality archetypes that marketers can apply to refine their ‘WHY’, build their brand, gain clarity on their target audience, and attain a loyal customer following.
Jung suggested that humans use symbolism to better understand broad, complex concepts. Archetypes, universal story values, characters and ideas, stay with us and become part of a shared, collective consciousness. Applied correctly, archetypes can be used to select and refine brand personalities and ‘reasons for being’ that become universal and instinctively understood by their customers.
Each brand’s archetype is a story that stands the test of time and is a powerful way to position companies. These stories humanize the transactional relationships that are the basis of commerce.
Let’s look at two very different brands and the archetypes they’ve become. The brand Harley Davidson Motorcycles evokes feelings of liberation and is considered the ‘outlaw’ archetype. Their products, services, messaging, customers, and especially their biker rallies tightly reflect their personality as outlaws. Many times, the archetype personality is also the WHY for a brand; what is the reason this brand exists? This is clear for Harley Davidson given their “Live to Ride, Ride to Live” tagline.
On the other side of the archetype spectrum is Chanel. This couture fashion, fragrance and beauty brand, evokes intimacy and reflects the ‘lover’ archetype. Their mission statement reads, “To be the ultimate house of luxury, defining style and creating desire, now and forever.” This mission statement has guided their brand, advertising, haute couture fashion designs, marketing and selling strategy. Their tagline, ‘Say It With Chanel,’ conveys the exclusivity, luxury, and beauty that the lover archetype represents.
As shown with these two examples, companies can leverage brand archetypes for better positioning, emotional connections, and marketing. The brand archetypes can help define relationships with customers, help with a product launch, frame and understand expectations and needs, and inform marketing campaigns.
When your brand archetype is clear, it helps inform and explain the user journey and create an ideal customer persona or buyer persona for your company.
Knowing your brand archetype helps create the personality characteristics to appeal to an audience that will be attracted to your brand and build your business.
Here is a closer look at the 12 brand archetypes, their characteristics and the impact of each brand persona.
1. The Magician
The Magician brand is visionary, able to apply deep intellect and a sense of mysticism to think outside the box. The Magician promises miracles and brings dreams to life.
Disney, Apple, Google and Intel are good examples.
2. The Outlaw
The Outlaw doesn’t settle for the status quo, is disruptive and rebellious. Outlaw brands demand more and go out and get it. Unconventionality, social change, and challenging convention are prime characteristics.
Think MTV, Levi, Virgin and Harley Davidson.
3. The Jester
Humor, a sense of whimsy and living life in the moment define the Jester. These brands are a bit more lighthearted and have a little more fun. Their marketing is a bit more playful, optimistic and aims to deliver pleasure.
Classic brands like M&M, Old Spice and Ben & Jerry’s are good examples.
4. The Creator
Innovation and artistry drive the Creator. These brands are a bit more provocative and daring, bold and uninhibited. These brands see the opportunity and embrace the original. They aim to create products you can’t live without.
Great examples include Lego, Apple and Adobe.
5. The Sage
Wisdom is the primary trait of the Sage. These brands focus on the pursuit of knowledge above all else. The sheer brilliance of these brands leaves people awestruck. These brands believe in the value of intellect and seek to assure and guide customers.
Noted brands include Harvard, the BBC and National Geographic.
6. The Innocent
The Innocent is the dreamer among the archetypes, seeking safety, simplicity, honesty and humility. These brands personify purity, innocence and nostalgia. They seek to provide happiness, and are willing to believe advertising that focuses on guilt in favor of exploration and providing joy.
Ivory, Coca-Cola, Nintendo and Orville Reddenbacher are great example brands.
7. The Lover
The Lover is all about passion and pleasure. The Lover brands are a part of the most intimate, personal and powerful moments in your life. Celebrations, indulgences, providing pleasure for a partner are at the heart of these brands’ products. They are about indulgent moments.
Think Godiva Chocolates, Victoria’s Secret, Chanel and Versace.
8. The Everyman
The Everyman is the good guy, the regular Joe. These brands exude friendliness, humility and authenticity. They are known for being simple and unpretentious. They embrace the simplicity of every-day life.
Target, Home Depot and Dunkin’ are excellent examples.
9. The Hero
Be the best. Save the world. Make people better. These are phrases associated with the Hero archetype. These brands challenge you, help you rise to the occasion and urge you to answer the call. The Hero is brave, honest and explicit about what they do, and exude true grit.
Hero archetype brands include the U.S. Army, Adidas and Nike.
10. The Caregiver
The nurturing brands that tend to your needs, especially when you are vulnerable, are in the Caregiver archetype. These brands rely heavily on trust, reliability, healing and safety. Caregivers are warm, positive, reassuring and service-focused.
Examples include UNICEF, World Wildlife Fund and Johnson & Johnson.
11. The Ruler
Exclusivity, luxury and power embody the Ruler archetype. Refined control with a commanding presence are at the heart of these brands, which recognize and reward your success and, in most cases, wealth.
Brands in this category include Mercedes-Benz, Rolex and Ritz-Carlton.
12. The Explorer
The beaten path is not enough for the Explorer, which has a sense of wanderlust, curiosity and desire. The Explorer breaks free from what is expected, seeking to consider new possibilities.
Jeep, The North Face and L.L. Bean are classic examples.
As you can see, some companies may be examples of more than one brand archetype. Many times there is a primary archetype and a secondary — less dominant archetype. Read through each archetype and jot down which two personalities most resonate with your brand, and why. Ask yourself if this archetype reflects the ‘WHY’ of your brand, the personality, messaging and would it attract an audience that reflects your mission and growth goals? After you choose your archetype, write down all the customer touchpoints you can convey this personality; mission, company values, marketing material, social media posts and products and services.