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Intro to the 12 Brand Archetypes: Where Does Your Brand Fit In?

Movies fall into categories such as drama, comedy, or romance, and brands fall into archetypes. All of us have a subconscious understanding of archetypes without even realizing it and gravitate to the same ones over and over, just like we always browse the same categories on Netflix. If you can remain consistent with your archetype it can help you earn the trust of your customer and elevate brand loyalty.

What’s a Brand Archetype?

You can think of a brand archetype as a pattern of behaviour or a recurring symbol. For a concrete example, think about the signs placed above each aisle in your grocery store that identify food categories such as cereal, pasta, or soup. Without those signs we’d be wandering the aisles repeatedly and grocery shopping would take three times as long.

Especially in this COVID-era with long line-ups, traffic arrows on the floor that seem like they are forever pointed in the opposite direction of where you’re headed, and cumbersome masks, having no signage would add stress to the already nightmarish task of buying your food.

Archetypes help customers find our brand quickly by aligning with their values and needs and making them feel like they can identify with us. We’ve all been there- you are wandering hungry in Loblaws, glance upwards and see that glorious sign, ‘CHIPS’. Yes! Chips are what you need. Aisle 5 is your destiny!

An undefined brand archetype means your storyline isn’t solid. Your potential clients have checked out and your product or service wasn’t in their cart.

The 12 Brand Archetypes

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Carol Pearson and Margaret Mark co-authored ‘The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes’, and are the branding gurus that built this framework based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung.

Throughout this series we’ll explain the 12 distinct brand archetypes and what emotions they appeal to in their customers. They can be split into four different categories based on four basic human needs:

  • Stability: The Creator, The Caregiver, The Ruler

  • Belonging: The Jester, The Lover, The Regular Guy/Girl

  • Discovery: The Innocent, The Explorer, The Sage

  • Achievement: The Rebel, The Hero, The Magician

Take a guess. Does Rolls Royce have the same archetype as Budweiser, Rolex or Swiffer?

Bet you guessed Rolex, but why?

It’s because they both position themselves as luxury goods that are refined, high-class and sophisticated. These two brands will help us define our first archetype,

The Ruler!

We're also going to take a sneak peak at two other archetypes.

Brand Archetype #1: The Ruler

Examples: Rolls Royce, Bentley, Hublot, Rolex

If you’re purchasing a product from a Ruler brand like Rolls Royce or Rolex, it’s definitely not because you’re looking for a deal. It’s about status in its purest form- the brands are recognized as luxury and not attainable by everyone. Rulers confidently state their brand is of the highest standard with little to no comparison in their category. You don’t wear a Rolex because it tells the time exceptionally well, do you? No. You wear a Rolex because of the prestige it brings, it elevates the wearer into an elite group of successful people. The Rolex website says it best: “Wearing a Rolex watch enables entry into a world of unlimited possibilities.”

Brand Archetype #2: The Caregiver

Examples: Johnson & Johnson, Kleenex, Campbell’s, Pampers

In contrast to the luxury of the Ruler, this archetype is based on eliciting feelings of warmth and trust. The Caregiver archetype wants to make you feel nurtured and displays a wealth of compassion for humanity. Their messages are often centered around family, especially caring and loving for children and those more vulnerable in the community. In this Kleenex commercial, it’s clear they want to position themselves as a compassionate brand that’s understanding of all the range of emotions humans can feel during an event like the pandemic.

Brand Archetype #3: The Jester

Examples: Old Spice, Budweiser, M&M’s

The Jester is all about the laughs and bringing you to a light-hearted place where there are no real rules to follow. This archetype can be quirky, borderline mischievous, and wants to bring out the joyous side of everyone. The messaging is typically creative and sets it apart from other brands in their category. Old Spice isn’t trying to be Axe, it stands alone as the often goofy men’s deodorant brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously. That’s what makes it memorable for the audience.

Have you picked out your brand amongst the archetypes listed so far?

If not, stay tuned to this blog series where we’ll highlight the remaining 9 common brand archetypes.

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