Chances are, you’re here because someone has said the words “brand archetypes” to you for the very first time in your life, and you don’t want to look like you don’t know what that is.
Science has shown that this accounts for 80% of all searches for “brand archetypes,” with the remaining 20% comprising creatives trying to figure out which archetype matches their brand. And even though those percentages are completely made up here, they are still somehow more real than brand archetypes themselves.
Before we jump in with both feet to explore the meaning and mystery of brand archetypes, let’s first define what an archetype is.
What the heck is an archetype?
Archetypes are just another way for the universe to convince us that there is no such thing as originality.
You see, back before there was written language, humans stole their stories from their elders, not realizing that their elders had been doing the same thing for generations. Worse, when other cultures and civilizations were exposed to these stories, they also kifed the parts they liked and put them in their own stories. Kind of like China does with American IP today.
For millennia, it seems they were able to get away with it. But once humans started writing stuff down, they invented comparative literature and started noticing all sorts of similarities in stories.
Of course, as it is with most literature, nobody really cared. In part, this was because reading was a lot of work, and thinking even more so, but mostly it was because storytellers don’t like people revealing their secrets any more than magicians do.
The Jung and the Restless
It wasn’t until Carl Jung (pronounced like you’re saying “young” in a fancy European accent), a psychologist (of all things), began describing these similarities as archetypes that people finally began to take notice.
Jung believed that not only do human personalities all boil down to the same basic things, but also that understanding these fundamental “archetypes” can help a person see exactly how much of themselves they’ve essentially stolen from others.
However, instead of becoming a copyright lawyer, Jung foolishly founded analytic psychiatry and spread his ideas to others who were extremely happy to copy it. Some even added to it.
Jung believed there were four personality archetypes, but as we’ve already mentioned, he tended to think small. It wasn’t long before the list of archetypes had been expanded to twelve, putting it on par with the highly scientific field of astrology.
The 12 Brand Archetypes
However, unlike the zodiac, which determines what kind of a jerk you are by what time of year you were born, personality archetypes are determined by what kind of jerk you are. While this makes it harder to blame your shortcomings on something as intangible as the stars, it is very good news for Scorpios who are sick of being hated for being born in November.
Archetypes also have cooler names than “Sagittarius,” “Pisces,” or “Cancer” (I mean come on, really?). And those names give a clue to the personalities they represent. They are:
- The Ruler (think “king” and not “measuring stick”)
- The Sage (as in “wisdom,” not herbs for your tea)
- The Hero (could be the sandwich, but it’s not)
- The Caregiver (for anyone who cares)
- The Magician (because magic is real in archetype or something?)
- The Explorer (for people who don’t care about archetypes)
- The Creator (not almighty, just creative)
- The Everyman (this is kind of a “catch-all” archetype, if you ask me)
- The Innocent (because you’ve got to have an option for kids, don’t you?)
- The Rebel (presented without a cause)
- The Lover (because nobody’s really “a fighter”)
- The Jester (guess which one fits our brand?)
The idea behind archetypes is that EVERYONE fits into one of these descriptions. Like with astrology, they can tell you something about yourself, such as what your future might hold. Of course, also like the signs of the zodiac, they might not be completely accurate. But that’s probably just because you suck at being what you’re supposed to be. Chances are you’re not a very good Capricorn, either, are you?
What does this have to do with branding?
If you’ve been paying attention (and nobody is going to blame you if you haven’t, and are just pretending to read in order to impress whoever’s watching), you may already realize that people can’t tell the difference between themselves and organizations. Sure, one may just be a single person, compared to thousands of people working around the globe, but let’s just dismiss that minor detail as irrelevant. People are simply organizations of one.
In other words, if a person can be an archetype, then a brand can, too. And all of the aspects you would attribute to a personality archetype will also apply to the brand archetype.
But brand archetypes have actual value to marketers, unlike personality archetypes, which don’t even have cool keychains or belt buckles you can get.
Brand archetypes help marketers understand how audiences view a brand. This is important, because brands need to make sense to consumers. People like to relate to people, so even if a business or organization isn’t actually a person, audiences will still choose to engage with it as if it were. That’s just how stubborn people are.
People dislike what they don’t understand, and that includes brands. When people are not able to fit a brand into an organizational category (which is basically what a brand archetype is), then they will avoid it, or perhaps even make fun of it.
Brand archetypes also inform marketers of what kind of tone of voice their messaging should have, and what form or style their marketing should take on. So, despite being super weird and zodiac-like, brand archetypes actually have some merit, even without the cool belt buckles and fortune-telling.
That felt kind of like a conclusion
It was. Hope you enjoyed it.
If you’re dying to know what kind of brand archetype YOUR business embodies, then you need to get over yourself and talk to the branding geniuses at DAMN GOOD, who will be happy to tell you your fortune and guess your favorite color, as well as build the best damn brand you’ve ever seen.