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Getting a Laugh or Dropping Knowledge: A Jester vs Sage Archetype Match-up

Pop quiz:

Name the company with a gecko as their mascot. If you didn’t guess Geico within about 3 seconds, you’ve been living under a rock.

Geico is the perfect example of a Jester!

In this 6-part series we’re featuring captivating battles between brand archetypes.

Quick review: These archetypes are well-known in the marketing realm and are based on the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung, who defined archetypes as “highly developed elements of the collective unconscious.”

In this week’s brand archetype match-up, The Jester and The Sage couldn’t be more dissimilar. They sit on opposite sides of the archetype wheel, and seek their audience’s attention in very different ways. Let’s see who gets the W, will it be the comic or the nerd?

Opponent #1- The Jester

Examples: Old Spice, Budweiser, M&M’s, Bubly, Geico,

Main focus: Ensuring people see the lighter side of life, focused on light-hearted enjoyment

Who doesn’t love a good chuckle? For brands that have chosen the Jester archetype to represent as their persona, it’s no joke. Being memorable and getting people to crack a smile is always a win-win for brand retention & recognition.

The Geico gecko has been capturing our attention since 1998. The famous green reptile was conceptualized by American advertising agency, the Martin Group, who saw the value of positioning Geico in a humorous way rather than inciting fear into viewers about costly life events that insurance can diminish.

This set them apart from their competitors, something that investor Warren Buffett (who runs Berkshire Hathaway, Geico’s parent company) is keenly in support of.

In 2018, Geico was the top advertiser on YouTube, supplying a whopping 6% of its revenue.

But, Geico being the mischievous Jester archetype and realizing mascot fatigue is a real thing, they also threw in other goofy characters for our viewing pleasure such as the famous ‘Hump Day Camel’.

With a majestic slogan like “The King of Beers”, you might think Budweiser stands amongst the Ruler brands, but you’d be wrong.

One glance at the nostalgic “Whassap” commercial released in 1999 and you’ll understand their aim: to entertain. Their fun laid-back persona has been a mainstay and contrasts so many other alcohol brands that are status-driven, such as Courvoisier, and Hennessey. This year during the Superbowl, they revived that famed commercial for its 20th anniversary with a hilarious and quirky tech twist.

You can watch it here, but, I'm going put the original here - doesn't get old!

The Jester’s aim is to bring joy to the world, but they need to ensure their specific audience will take the joke well. If it falls flat because it’s perceived as disrespectful to a certain group, it can severely affect public opinion and flatten a brand’s reputation.

Opponent #2- The Sage

Examples: BBC, PBS, Google, TED, The Economist, Discovery Channel

Main focus: Seeking truth and understanding, imparting wisdom

The Sage archetype is one that’s rooted in the discovery of information, and takes on the task of helping us understand the world.

Sage brands pride themselves in not only being regarded as sources of intelligent ideas and concepts, but they generously share that knowledge.

They position themselves as the Yoda to Luke, guiding clients as they stumble along their knowledge-seeking path.

TED-branded talks and conferences are an excellent example of how Sage brands can hold a place in society for people to share their findings and research. Its events have hosted many notable figures, including well-known author and researcher Brené Brown, whose 2011 talk titled “The Power of Vulnerability”, now boasts over 14 million views (and counting). Sage brands earn the respect of consumers through intellectualism, but have to tread carefully. They can fall out of favour if they are perceived by the public to be too opinionated.

At TED 2015, we were warned that the globe was not well prepared for the next pandemic during a talk by Bill Gates. Fast forward to 2020, when the TED event was postponed from April to July, and ultimately cancelled due to COVID. In this current climate, we’d do well to continue seeking out Sage brands that continue to seek out the truth and provide accurate information.

Who won this schoolyard brawl for you, was it the class clown, or the bookworm? Stay tuned next week for our next title match-up:

The Caregiver vs. The Magician.

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