In every movie you watch, there are tried and true, recognisable characters that you know and love. There’s the hero (think Luke Skywalker or Wonder Woman), the jester (like the Weasley Twins or Tyrion Lannister), the wise sage (that’s Gandalf or Yoda) and the explorer (like Indiana Jones or Mulan) and so many others.
These repeatable personalities make it easy for us to understand the characters, empathise with their story, and connect with their mission.
Wouldn’t it be great if it were that easy for people to do the same with your brand? Well, it is!
Introducing brand archetypes.
What are brand archetypes?
Brand archetypes are a set of 12 personalities that can be used to understand, personify, and communicate your brand to your audience. 📢
These 12 archetypes group together behaviours and personality traits that we all instinctively understand. When someone describes a hero, you can imagine and understand what a hero would believe, say, and do. The same goes for a caregiver, or a creator.
The idea of archetypes dates all the way back to 348 B.C with the Greek philosopher, Plato, who spoke about templates of intuitive understanding.
Since then, others have explored the same idea, such as Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, and most recently, Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson in their book The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.
Because these archetypes are universally recognised throughout history, around the world, and across generations, they are a super useful tool for creating a unique brand voice that your audience understands, relates to, and connects with!
The benefits of brand archetypes
Archetypes aren’t only useful in philosophy and psychiatry – they’re incredibly valuable for brands to connect with your audience and differentiate yourself from others.
They help you connect with your audience
When you truly understand your audience, you know what they need, what they value, and what appeals to them. Knowing this, you can then align your brand with a specific archetype that will resonate with your audience, speak to their needs, and appeal to their personality.
Because brand archetypes are so recognisable, your audience will instinctively know and understand your brand voice, even if they don’t specifically know the archetype that you’re using.
For example, if your brand is the Caregiver archetype, your audience will experience the caring, nurturing nature of your voice which will appeal to their needs, connect with their emotions, and attract more ideal customers.
They help you differentiate yourself from others
As well as connecting with your audience, brand archetypes are powerful differentiation tools.
There may be 100 candle brands, but if most of them are the Innocent archetype and you’re the Outlaw, you’ll stand out from the crowd and make people stop.
The 12 brand archetypes
There are 12 main archetypes that your brand can fit into. Your brand may also be a combination of two archetypes, such as the Innocent Hero or the Creative Outlaw.
1. The Outlaw 🔞
The outlaw is a rebellious brand that challenges the status quo. They’re all about revolution, revenge, and rule-breaking. Appealing to outlaws means encouraging, facilitating, and empowering revolution, and having a gritty, attitude-filled brand voice.
- Brand voice: Disruptive, rebellious, combative
- Drivers: Freedom, change, righteousness, revenge, independence
- Fears: Servitude, conformity, complacency, acceptance, dependance
- Strategy: Disrupt and shock
- Examples: Virgin, Harley Davidson, Diesel.
2. The Magician 🪄
The magician is a powerful brand that believes anything can happen. They know that anything can happen if you just believe, and are all about transformation and magical moments. As a magician brand, your voice will be full of magic, wonder, and possibility.
- Brand voice: Mystical, informed, reassuring
- Drivers: Transformation, knowledge, vision, belief, discovery
- Fears: Consequences, stagnation, ignorance, doubt, uncertainty
- Strategy: Transformation
- Examples: Coca Cola, Disney, Dyson.
3. The Hero 💪
The hero is a brave brand that values mastery. Heroes believe that we can make the world better, and that they have the grit and determination to outwork the rest. They know that where there’s a will there’s a way. In your brand as a hero, you’ll inspire and empower your audience to succeed and believe in their ambition.
- Brand voice: Honest, candid, brave
- Drivers: Mastery, courageousness, growth, development, defence
- Fears: Incompetence, cowardice, deterioration, downfall, incapability
- Strategy: Become stronger & better
- Examples: Adidas, Nike, FedEx.
4. The Lover 💘
The lover is an intimate brand that’s all about desire, pleasure, and closeness. They make their audience feel special, beautiful, and desirable, appealing to their need for connection and intimacy. They’re emotive, passionate, and sensual.
- Brand voice: Sensual, Empathetic, Soothing
- Drivers: Sensuality, closeness, indulgence, affection, love
- Fears: Rejection, loneliness, isolation, invisibility, contempt
- Strategy: Red carpet treatment
- Examples: Alfa Romeo, Chanel, Victoria’s Secret.
5. The Jester 🃏
The jester is a fun-loving brand that’s all about having a laugh and a good time. They believe that we’re here for a short time, not a long time, so you might as well let your hair down and enjoy yourself. They live in the moment, don’t take themselves too seriously, and bring joy to everyone around them.
- Brand voice: Fun loving, playful, optimistic
- Drivers: Fun, happiness, laughter, togetherness, positivity
- Fears: Boredom, gloom, sadness, loneliness, negativity
- Strategy: Make them laugh
- Examples: M&Ms, Old Spice, Dollar Shave Club.
With a playful, lighthearted, humorous brand voice, Noissue customer Random Candle Co are definite Jesters when it comes to brand archetypes.
6. The Everyman 🤝
The everyman brand is all about belonging. They believe that when we treat each other with honesty and friendliness we can live together in harmony. All they want is to belong, so they create an inclusive, down-to-earth community where anyone can feel welcome.
- Brand voice: Friendly, humble, authentic
- Drivers: Connection, togetherness, equality, fellowship, inclusion
- Fears: Exclusion, standing out, isolation, hostility, disassociation
- Strategy: Create a welcoming community
- Examples: IKEA, target, lynx.
7. The Caregiver 👐
The caregiver is a selfless brand all about service. To them, it’s important to love your neighbour as yourself, and they believe that everyone deserves care, so we must all strive to be of service to one another. Their voice is protective, caring, and warm.
- Brand voice: Caring, warm, reassuring
- Drivers: Support, help, service, recognition, gratitude
- Fears: Anguish, helplessness, ingratitude, neglect, blame
- Strategy: Others before self
- Examples: Unicef, WWF, Toms
8. The Ruler 💰
The ruler’s primary driver is control. They want to be successful in work and in life, and value rewards for excellence and achievements. For them, power isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, and they thrive on being at the top of the food chain.
- Brand voice: Commanding, refined, articulate
- Drivers: Power, prosperity, status, success, wealth
- Fears: Weakness, insignificance, failure, poverty, destitution
- Strategy: Demonstrate superiority
- Examples: Louis Vuitton, Mercedes-Benz, Rolex.
9. The Creator 🎨
The creator brand is all about innovation. For creators, if it can be imagined, it can be created. They strive to see potential everywhere and uncover originality with imagination. It’s their main mission to create something new and exceptional, and inspire others to do the same.
- Brand voice: Inspirational, daring, provocative
- Drivers: Creation, originality, self-expression, vision, imagination
- Fears: Stagnation, duplication, familiarity, disillusion, indifference
- Strategy: Inspire & encourage the pursuit of originality
- Examples: Lego, Apple, Adobe.
Most artists fit the Creator archetype. Noissue customer Leigh Ellexon is a perfect example of an inspirational, original artist who is all about self-expression.
10. The Innocent 👶
The innocent brand is one built around safety and simplicity. They’re a positive personality with an optimistic outlook on life whose biggest mission is to make sure everyone is happy. They are honest and pure people who see the beauty in everyone.
- Brand voice: Optimistic, honest, humble
- Drivers: Happiness, morality, simplicity, honesty, positivity
- Fears: Anguish, depravity, complexity, deceit, negativity
- Strategy: Foster feel-good, wholesome spirit
- Examples: Aveeno, Dove, Innocent juices.
Noissue customer, Bubbsi, is a great example of a brand that fits the innocent archetype.
11. The Sage 📚
The sage is the person you want to go to for understanding and wisdom. Sages believe that education is the path to wisdom, and wisdom is where the answers lie. They want to understand the world and share that knowledge with others.
- Brand voice: Knowledgeable, assured, guiding
- Drivers: Wisdom, intelligence, expertise, information, influence
- Fears: Ignorance, insanity, powerlessness, misinformation, inaccuracy
- Strategy: Celebrate life-long learning
- Examples: Google, BBC, University of Oxford.
12. The Explorer 🌎
The explorer brand is one that can’t be fenced in. They always want to push themselves out of their comfort zone, try something new, and challenge themselves. They value the journey and share that experience with others.
- Brand voice: Exciting, fearless, daring
- Drivers: Adventure, exploration, the unknown, self-discovery, liberation
- Fears: Confinement, immobility, entrapment, incarceration, cautiousness
- Strategy: Celebrate the journey
- Examples: North face, Jeep, Patagonia.
Paynter Jackets are a noissue customer who are all about trying something new, self-discovery, and celebrating the journey. I’d say they’re a good candidate for the Explorer archetype (maybe with some Creator thrown in there too!)
How to find your brand archetype
1. Know your audience
Firstly, you need to know your audience in order to identify which brand archetypes will appeal to and resonate with them. Understanding their needs, desires, and challenges will show you how your brand can really connect with them.
You need to identify which archetype their personality most aligns with, and then which archetype most aligns with their desires. For example, your customer might be the everyman, but their biggest desire is to create something new, so you will appeal to the creator in them and align your brand with the creator archetype.
2. Know your brand
Once you understand your audience, you can check your archetype against your brand’s vision, mission, and values. If, for example, you’re torn between the hero and the outlaw, but one of them fits more with the vision you have for your brand, then you have your answer. Always make sure everything in your brand aligns with your vision, mission, and values.
3. Know your voice
Lastly, know your brand voice. Your brand archetype will influence your voice and vice versa. Being clear on the voice and tone of your brand will help you understand which archetype most aligns with your personality.
How to use archetypes in your brand
Once you have a clear brand archetype or combination of archetypes, you can use this to shape the rest of your brand. Your brand archetype can influence:
- Ad campaigns
- Social media content
- Written copy
- Visual identity
- Product naming
- And more!
Every brand will fit into one or two of these archetypes, and when you know yours it will transform the way you communicate with your audience.
Utilizing these recognisable, instinctive characteristics will allow you to appeal to, connect with, and create for your customers on a whole new level. It’s been done for centuries in movies, books, and brands, and will continue to be useful well into the future.
Now it’s your turn. What’s your brand archetype? 🃏🎨🪄💪📚🌎