Archetype: [ahr-ki-tahyp] noun: a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, universally present in individual psyches; a model or first form; prototype.

As defined above, the term “archetype” originates from ancient Greek meaning “original or old” (archein) and “type or pattern” (typos). The archetype concept is used in areas relating to behavior, literature, psychology and even branding. Most notably, well-known psychologist, Carl Jung, used archetypes—events, figures, motifs and images—to define the meaning and motivation within the human psyche. Jung referred to these archetypes as a symbol of the collective conscious found in recurring thoughts, stories and memories derived from one’s personal experiences. Through these repeating patterns and persisting events, one will create their own archetype. Their own Self. So, where the heck am I going with this and how does this relate to marketing you ask? Good question!

What is a Brand Archetype?

Inspired by Jung’s psychological framework and archetype theory, we can apply the same basic concepts to the foundations of brand identity and brand positioning. In relation to marketing, a brand archetype is a symbol, character or category which you assign to your brand or business. For those of you who don’t already know, I am a big believer in the idea that every brand and business entity has an individual personality and unique story to tell. And in any good story, there is always a main character who is pivotal to the narrative and storyline. This character becomes the heart of the story and over time develops into a person that the audience can relate to and identify with.

In a similar fashion, creating a brand persona or brand archetype both aims to impart realism and connect you with your audience. Creating meaningful relationships on a whole new level; human-to-human rather than business-to-consumer. People connect with people, not products or services. Your clients want to know there is a shared sense of purpose and meaning.

Why Create Your Brand Archetype?

Developing your brand archetype will enable you to better connect with your target audience and illuminate the driving force of your business. Your audience wants to know who you are, what you do and most importantly, WHY you do it. Having a strategic framework in place will allow you to make informed decisions and deliver a consistent vision, voice and purpose.

Here’s a few other reasons why archetypes are important to brand development:

  • Communicate more effectively to increase engagement
  • Create a nurturing organizational culture to increase satisfaction
  • Clearly establish expectations, define the space and set boundaries
  • Align your brand’s core values with your products and services
  • Inspire and motivate to increase client and employee retention

The 12 Master Archetypes

Although the number of archetypes is unlimited, Dr. Carol S. Pearson, author of The Hero Within, has created a system of 12 main archetypes among three various categories. Each individual archetype has its own set of values, mission statement and personality traits. While your brand may identify with a few different archetypes, typically one archetype will dominate.

1. The Ego Types

Hero: Warrior, Crusader, Superhero, Champion

Example: Nike, Army, FedEx

Example: Nike, Army, FedEx

  • Mission: to improve and impact the world for the better through brave and courageous acts
  • Strategy: inspire others to overcome obstacles and triumph over adversity
  • Values: competence, strength, and courage

Everyman: Neighbor, Girl/Boy Next Door, Realist

Example: Ikea, Southwest, Covergirl, Target

Example: Ikea, Southwest, Covergirl, Target

  • Mission: to connect with others and be accepted; create a sense of belonging and community
  • Strategy: be engaging, accessible and down to earth; be genuine and authentic
  • Values: realism, empathy, lack of pretense, belonging, approachable

Caregiver: Nurturer, Altruist, Parent

Example: Volvo, Proctor and Gamble, Campbell's Soup

Example: Volvo, Proctor and Gamble, Campbell’s Soup

  • Mission: to empower, protect and care for others; show compassion through service
  • Strategy: help others feel loved, cherished and safe; help people take care of themselves
  • Values: compassion, generosity, protective, nurturing, customer service

Innocent: Saint, Righteous, Utopian

Example: Ben and Jerry's, Dove, Fisher Price

Example: Ben and Jerry’s, Dove, Fisher Price

  • Mission: to spread awareness and optimism; to achieve a simple and pure life
  • Strategy: do things right according to your moral virtues and values; be trustworthy and reliable
  • Values: faith and optimism, morality, nostalgia, childhood

2. The Soul Types

Explorer: Seeker, Wanderer, Pilgrim

Example: North Face, Subaru, Jeep

Example: North Face, Subaru, Jeep

  • Mission: to seek adventure with no limits to learning and discovering; find meaning in life; keep moving
  • Strategy: help others experience the new and unknown; escape from the everyday and go on a journey to explore the world
  • Values: autonomy, freedom, ambition, adventure, being true to one’s soul

Revolutionary: Misfit, Outlaw, Rebel

Example: Virgin Airlines, Harley Davidson, MTV

Example: Virgin Airlines, Harley Davidson, MTV

  • Mission: to color outside the lines and challenge the status quo; the rules are made to be broken
  • Strategy: go against the grain in efforts to stand out and be different; find a better way of doing things
  • Values: freedom, rebellion, unconventional wisdom

Lover: Sensualist, Pleasure-Seeker, Partner

Example: Godiva, Victoria's Secret, Calvin Klein

Example: Godiva, Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein

  • Mission: develop a relationship with those and the things you love in the pursuit of passion
  • Strategy: deliver a product, service or experience that appeals to all of the senses; create something attractive
  • Values: passion, gratitude, appreciation, and commitment, intimacy, building relationships

Creator: Artist, Dreamer, Inventor, Writer

Example: Apple, GE, Martha Stewart

Example: Apple, GE, Martha Stewart

  • Mission: to make something new and create things of value; execute and realize your vision
  • Strategy: inspire others and promote individuality and self-expression through creativity and innovation
  • Values: creativity and imagination, vision, value, self-expression

3. The Self Types

Ruler: Leader, King, Role Model

Example: Mercedes, American Express, Microsoft

Example: Mercedes, American Express, Microsoft

  • Mission: to take control and power; create a prosperous and successful community
  • Strategy: exercise your power and influence; maintain a sense of exclusivity and confidence
  • Values: responsibility, leadership, power, status

Jester: Joker, Comedian, Performer

Example: Jack-In-The-Box, Go Daddy, Old Spice

Example: Jack-In-The-Box, Go Daddy, Old Spice

  • Mission: to live in the moment with full enjoyment; to have a great time and lighten up the world
  • Strategy: help others laugh and smile; don’t take things too seriously; give yourself permission to play, have fun and make jokes
  • Values: joy, playful, engaging, fun, enjoyment

Magician: Visionary, Catalyst, Healer, Leader, Wizard

Example: Disney, Lululemon, TED

Example: Disney, Lululemon, TED

  • Mission: to bring about transformation and make the impossible a reality; to gain knowledge of the outside world; altering perceptions of reality
  • Strategy: use the imagination to discover the hidden possibilities and potential; help others transform their lives; make dreams come true
  • Values: transformation, intuition, charisma, imagination

Sage: Scholar, Philosopher, Mentor, Advisor, Academic

Example: CNN, PBS, New York Times, Google

Example: CNN, PBS, New York Times, Google

  • Mission: to understand the world; to find the truth; to seek out information and self-reflect
  • Strategy: teach others and share your knowledge, expertise and research; analyze data and test assumptions
  • Values: wisdom, intelligence, analysis, objectivity, diligence

Define YOUR Brand Archetype

Now that you know the 12 master archetypes, which one does your brand most identify with? Remember, these archetypes are not rigid confines. As I mentioned before, your brand will most likely identify with a few archetypes, but one will reign supreme. This archetype will act as a guide to create a consistent identity and position.

If you can’t decide yet, try answering the following questions (in relation to your business, not yourself) and get the conversation going.

  1. What inspires/motivates you?
  2. What are your core values?
  3. How would you best describe your target market?
  4. What do you want to be known for? (i.e. fast service, innovation, client service, etc.)
  5. What makes you unique?

Good luck!