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Brand archetypes

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It’s no secret that in today’s digital age it’s more difficult than ever to get people’s attention, let alone the people who might be interested in your products and services. Brand archetypes can be instrumental in building a comprehensive brand strategy with targeted messaging that gets your ideal customers’ attention.

The days of transactional marketing, where generic ads selling your services to as wide an audience as possible, are long gone.  Establishing a deeper connection with consumers who really “get” your product through brand marketing is the only way to stand out from the crowd and succeed in today’s competitive, global market. Instead of trying to appeal to everyone (and therefore appealing to no-one), businesses today need to make use of persona-based advertising and targeted messaging that lets potential customers know that you share their values and understand their needs on a deep level.

So how can you appeal to your target market without seeming desperate?

Of course, there are an endless number of ways to get customers’ attention, and an effective brand strategy will make use of more than one. But brand archetypes are one of the most worthwhile and underutilized tools when it comes to cultivating powerful brand messaging that connects people with brands they love.

Whether you’re considering our Find Your Voice workshop or are simply interested in learning more about what brand archetypes are and how to use them in your brand’s messaging, Take the Stairs branding agency can help.

The history of archetypes

Although using brand archetypes is vital for modern businesses in the digital age, the idea actually stems from ancient Greece. The renowned philosopher Plato originally spoke of archetypes as being a person’s basic essence, or mental patterns that are imprinted on a soul before a person is born into the world.

The concept has shown up in countless incarnations since then, in fields as varied as philosophy, storytelling, psychology, and – more recently – business.

Archetypes can be thought of as basic human personalities that persist in every time period and culture. Each one is born with specific desires, fears, likes, and dislikes that are inherent to the personality.

Carl Jung develops the first modern archetypes

In the 1940s, famed psychologist Carl Jung expanded on Plato’s archetypes, noting that cultures often share symbols and themes that appear in stories, art, and even dreams. He believed that all humans shared a “collective unconscious” that stems from our primitive past and is stored in our unconscious minds, influencing behavior.

Jung broke the archetypes down into four categories:

  • The Persona: the “mask” we present to the world
  • The Anima/Animus: the unconscious mirror image of our biological gender
  • The Shadow: the primitive, animalistic self
  • The Self: the idealized unified self

Although these four archetypes were the primary focus of Jung’s concept, he also suggested that other archetypes may arise, including parental, childlike, and trickster archetypes.

“The Hero and the Outlaw” brings the concept to business

It’s true that Plato came up with the initial idea of archetypes a couple thousand years ago, and it’s been almost 75 years since Carl Jung adapted the theory, but the idea of using the archetypes as a part of brand strategy is a relatively new concept.

Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson’s book “The Hero and the Outlaw,” published in 2001, first brought the notion of brand archetypes into the business world. The authors were well aware that people tend to mostly buy based on emotion rather than logic, and demonstrated to business owners and those in charge of brand messaging how to tap into this fact by appealing to people’s unconscious archetypal patterns and desires.

“The Hero and the Outlaw” details the twelve brand archetypes and helps businesses find the most effective one for their brand. Once the brand’s archetype is decided, every part of the brand strategy, from logos and messaging to full marketing efforts, can be built around it to present a well-rounded, powerful brand message to the world.

While this book is an excellent place to start learning about brand archetypes, some small business owners find that it can be hard to see the big picture view of their brand and how to best present it to the world. In cases like these, a workshop like our Find Your Voice workshop can be helpful, since it’s often easier with a guide that can provide an outside eye.

Today’s impact on brand archetypes

It’s hard to deny the importance of brand archetypes for today’s businesses. Of course, many businesses are using them consciously and intentionally. They consult their archetype profile when putting together their branding strategies and perfecting their messaging, and are very deliberate with the way they present their brand to the world. They see impressive results, both in immediate sales and in returning customers and long-term loyalty.

Other brands might not be fully aware of the power of brand archetypes but they’re intuitively using the concept to a degree, knowing the importance of building a rapport with their target audience, establishing common ground, and appealing to unconscious, emotional minds. Unknowingly using concepts as old as time, brands insert universal symbols into advertising, presenting themselves as the hero or caregiver. Some brands may get lucky and strike the right chord, but more often than not, they miss the mark.

Of course, there are plenty of small businesses that know they could benefit from implementing brand archetypes but aren’t quite sure where to start. Fortunately, there are a growing number of resources out there about archetypes and how to use them to effectively grow their business.

The 12 brand archetypes

Brand archetypes can hit your audience on a deep unconscious level, tapping into desires and motivations they might not even realize they have. And if you do it right, connecting with your business will feel to your audience like finding an old friend.

But in order to take full advantage of brand archetypes in your messaging, you have to take the time to sit down and examine your brand’s personality and what drives it in order to understand which of the twelve archetypes most resonates with your company.

The twelve brand archetypes are universal, spanning across geography and generations, all the way back to Plato’s time. Get an accurate idea of which one your brand possesses and learn how to best express that through your messaging, and your brand will be unstoppable.

Before you start reading through the different archetypes, remember that brands, like people, are multi-dimensional, and it’s completely normal to initially have trouble deciding which archetype your business fits into. In fact, you’ll most likely find that your brand is mostly one archetype with a few others mixed in. Keeping in mind your industry and the consumer base you’re aiming for can often help narrow down your choices if you’re having trouble deciding, as can our Find Your Voice workshop.

The lover brand archetype icon.

The Lover

The lover archetype craves intimacy and connection. This passionate archetype feels with all the senses and loves a sense of indulgence. Whether seeking romantic or platonic attraction, the lover embodies sensuality and desires to be found attractive to others.

Lover messaging often centers around indulgence of the senses or intimacy and romance, with the use of warm, soft colors. Women’s fashion, cosmetics, wine, and luxury chocolate brands are often lovers.

The Lover archetype examples:

Savage Fenty Logo
Sephora Logo
Nescafe logo

The jester brand archetype icon. The Jester

As the name implies, the jester brand archetype is all about having fun and not taking life too seriously. Regardless of the industry they’re in, jester brands maintain a fun, light-hearted personality and focus on spreading joy to their customer base.

Naturally, candy and soda brands are often jester archetypes, using bright colors and fun, attention-grabbing advertising. Brands in more serious industries can also use the jester archetype to keep things from getting boring – take Geico auto insurance, for example.

The Jester archetype examples:

Tide logo
Carl's Jr. logo
Hotels.com logo

The regular guy brand archetype icon.The Everyman

The everyman archetype is a down-to-earth brand that fosters a sense of belonging and understanding. This unpretentious archetype understands the needs of the common man and will provide no-nonsense products and services that follow through on what they promise.

Trust is a large part of the everyman archetype, and brands under this umbrella welcome everyone. Common everyman industries include box stores, comfort food establishments such as IHOP, and family auto parts stores.

The Everyman archetype examples:

Kroger logo
Ford logo
Folgers logo

The caregiver brand archetype icon. The Caregiver

Caregiver brands live to serve. This selfless archetype is nurturing and seeks to provide safety and comfort. Thoughtful and generous, brands embodying the caregiver archetype put others’ needs before their own and make sure everyone’s taken care of.

As you might guess, hospitals and nonprofit organizations oftentimes fall into the caregiver archetype, as well as many home healthcare and babycare products, as well as educational institutes. Industries that require a great deal of empathy and a human touch are caregivers.

The Caregiver archetype examples:

St Jude Children's Research Hospital
Vicks logo
Gerber logo

The ruler brand archetype icon.The Ruler

The ruler is all about power and control, usually won through hard work and climbing to the top of the social ladder. This elite archetype wants what others can’t have and won’t take excuses from those of lower standing. Status is important to the ruler archetype, and these brands often find themselves in positions of authority.

The ruler brand archetype is commonly used for high-end hotels, luxury car brands, and high-quality watches and other jewelry frequently thought of as status symbols.

The Ruler archetype examples:

Proper Twelve logo
Rolls Royce logo
Goop logo

The creator brand archetype icon.The Creator

The creator brand archetype is a visionary, seeking to use imagination to create things that have never existed before. Innovation and individuality are important to creator brands, and as a result, they often break new grounds within their industries.

The creator archetype is an inventor, and loves to combine artistic pursuits with technology. As such, many technology brands fall into the creator archetype as they push the envelope and explore new ways of doing things.

The Creator archetype examples:

Play doh logo
Tesla Logo
Etsy logo

The innocent brand archetype icon.The Innocent

The innocent archetype exudes safety, optimism, and all-around wholesomeness. This archetype has pure, honest intentions and conveys its image using simple, straightforward messaging. The humble innocent archetype gives you confidence that everything’s going to be okay.

Industries that use the innocent brand archetype run the gamut from bath and body products, to foods and eco-friendly cleaning supplies, but they tend to be brands associated with safe, natural or organic ingredients.

The Innocent archetype examples:

Halos logo
Burt's Bees logo
method logo

The sage brand archetype icon.The Sage

Although the sage is wise and knowledgeable, these brands never stop seeking wisdom. Consumers who want to be well-informed and guided by an expert gravitate towards sage brands. This archetype teaches while acknowledging and respecting the intelligence its audience is already bringing to the table.

Most news organizations and serious journals fall into the sage brand archetype, as do many educational institutes and some medical organizations.

The Sage archetype examples:

The Smithsonian logo
WebMD logo
The New Yorker logo

The explorer brand archetype icon.The Explorer

Restless and always in search of the next adventure, the explorer brand archetype can’t be tied down. These exciting brands are ambitious and value individualism, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

Outdoor brands and rugged vehicles like Jeep are a perfect fit for the explorer archetype. Explorer brands let consumers know what they’re about with no-nonsense advertising usually featuring their products being used in extreme environments such as while off-roading or mountaineering.

The Explorer archetype examples:

REI Logo
Subaru logo
Clif Bar logo

The magician brand archetype icon.The Magician

Transformation is the name of the game with the magician archetype. Magician brands promise the impossible and take their audience through a world where dreams come true if you just believe enough. The magician brand archetype is fueled by imagination and believes if you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Cosmetic companies are known for using the magician brand archetype. It’s also popular for cleaning products, the entertainment industry, as well as many health and wellness brands.

The Magician archetype examples:

noom logo
Flex Seal logo
Pixar logo

The superhero brand archetype icon. The Superhero

The brave superhero is determined to save the world at all costs. This archetype never shies away from hard work and enables its audience to succeed. Courageous and trustworthy, the superhero is just the archetype you need to get an impossible job done competently.

Industries that people rely on to safely accomplish activities like sports or outdoor adventures are often hero archetypes, as are emergency services like tow trucks, mechanics, athletic brands and locksmiths.

The Superhero archetype examples:

Under Armor logo
DayQuil Logo
Duracell logo

The outlaw brand archetype icon.The Outlaw

The status quo is unacceptable to the outlaw brand archetype and its audience. This rebellious brand stays outside the mainstream and attracts people who do likewise. Freedom and independence are driving motivators for the outlaw, which will fight conformity at all costs.

Typical outlaw brands are rough around the edges with a hint of danger, unapologetically using bold, in your face advertising. Outlaw industries include tools, alternative clothing, and items marketed to men.

The Outlaw archetype examples:

Hot Topic logo
Ed Hardy logo
Jack Daniels logo

Brand archetype FAQs

Take the Stairs offers a variety of services, from social media and branding services to workshops on finding “your why” and learning buyer personas. We specialize in helping small businesses take control of their processes, teaching them the skills they need along the way so they can eventually take the reins.

Although using brand archetypes can be deceptively simple, time and time again we’ve seen business owners struggle to get the hang of it, especially if they’ve never done anything similar before. We’ve found that getting an outside opinion can often help, since sometimes it can be hard to step back and see your brand the way the rest of the world sees it. Sometimes, however, people don’t need much help at all – they simply need one question answered and they’re good to go.

We’ve created this FAQ section for those of you who aren’t quite ready to reach out or who just have one or two questions about brand archetypes. The following are the most common questions we get on the subject, but feel free to reach out if you have a question not answered here.

There was a time when all a business had to do was hang a sign in their window listing their wares, and because they were likely the only business in town offering those particular products or services, everyone in town would give them business. Thanks to accessible travel and the internet, those days are long gone.

Now, even niche businesses have thousands of competitors all over the world, and consumers can bring them up with a quick Google search. It’s hard to stand out from the crowd with competition coming from all angles, so it’s essential to utilize messaging that quickly grabs the attention of those most likely to be interested in what you have to offer.

Before you worry about marketing, you need to get your branding sorted out so you have a clear strategy for how you’re going to present your company to the world and connect with like-minded consumers. Building a clear picture of your brand archetype profile can help you do this, by guiding you on everything from which channels to communicate with, the type of language to use, and even the aesthetics such as font and color scheme.

Let’s keep it simple: brand archetypes are a blueprint for your brand’s personality and using them can drastically simplify the process of developing a cohesive messaging strategy.

There are twelve brand archetypes, which can be loosely grouped into four broad categories based on the deepest desires they possess:

Desire: Connection

  • Everyman
  • Jester
  • Lover

Desire: Legacy

  • Outlaw
  • Magician
  • Hero

Desire: Spiritual Exploration

  • Innocent
  • Sage
  • Explorer

Desire: Structure

  • Caregiver
  • Ruler
  • Creator

The twelve brand archetypes are based on Carl Jung’s psychological concept which explores unconscious motivational patterns in the human mind. Jung’s concept is based on the ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s works, as discussed in more detail above.

It should be noted that although each person or brand possesses one primary archetype (or driving motivational pattern), most are a mixture of two or more archetypes.

Once you have a clear picture of your brand archetype profile, you can start using this knowledge when designing your brand messaging. Your brand’s messaging is essentially every bit of visual or text-based communication you have with your audience. This can mean:

  • Color schemes, fonts and logos on your website
  • Social media posts
  • Advertising campaigns
  • Blogs and newsletters

Brand messaging is the way you show the world your business’s “why,” your values, and your personality. Your brand messaging will completely change depending on your business’s brand archetype profile.

For example, a brand that places high value on integrity, such as the everyman or innocent archetype, will probably want to use more straightforward, matter-of-fact messaging. Whereas brands that value whimsy, such as the magician or jester archetypes, might be more likely to embrace silly, light-hearted messaging.

The clearer you can be about your brand’s archetype profile, the better you’ll be able to project that to your target audience. A whopping 71% of consumers prefer buying from brands who share their values, so it’s worth taking the time to get clear about what values you want your brand messaging to project.

Your branding strategy can include regular social media promotion, a website with optimized keywords, and a huge PPC budget, but if you’re not reaching the right audience, you’ll be wasting your time and money. It’s important to target the people who share your business’s values and are most likely to be interested in your products and services, and you can do this by using brand archetypes to guide your messaging. This will not only help you make the most out of your advertising budget, but will increase brand loyalty for valuable repeat business years down the line.

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Why Take the Stairs for brand archetypes?

The Take the Stairs team believes that in order for any business relationship to work, it’s crucial to find the right fit between consultant and client. That’s why we go out of our way to be transparent and upfront about how we work, so expectations are set on both ends from the very beginning and our clients can get the most out of our services.

We understand that you might be torn between trying to implement brand archetypes on your own and hiring a consultant. Or, you might be debating between hiring us or another agency.

So, why should you let us help you with your business’s brand archetypes? Take a look at some of what our Find Your Voice workshop has to offer.

Keep it simple

We don’t like to overcomplicate things. With a simple, efficient 2-hour workshop using exercises and word association, we can quickly nail down your company’s archetype profile. You’ll leave the workshop feeling confident in your brand’s archetype profile rather than grasping at straws trying to guess where you fit in.

Archetype profiles

Companies are rarely just one archetype. It’s much more common for them to have one primary archetype combined with a few less prominent ones mixed in. Our workshop outlines your full archetype profile so you can take advantage of powerful, unique archetype combinations that perfectly express your brand’s personality.

Messaging included

There’s no point in taking a workshop if you go away not knowing how to use the information you’ve learned. That’s why our workshop doesn’t just tell you what your brand archetype profile is, we use the time to develop talking points that match the tone of your archetype profile.

Schedule your brand archetype course today

If you want to unlock the power of your brand and win leads for your small business, it’s time to implement brand archetypes in your brand strategy.

Letting people know what products and services your business provides isn’t enough if you want to stand out in today’s global marketplace. Consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to who they want to do business with, so if you want to win them over, you need to connect with them on a deeper level by using their unconscious programming.

Trying to figure out what brand archetypes most resonate with your business and customer base can be difficult, not to mention getting the hang of implementing them in your brand strategy. Our Find Your Voice workshop will help you understand your business’ archetype profile in detail, even if you’ve never done anything like this before. We’ll also help you get a better understanding of your customers’ archetypes so we can create the most pointed messaging possible.

For more information or to schedule your Find Your Voice workshop, contact us any time.

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