When you understand the power of brand archetypes, building brands becomes much simpler, more rewarding, and worthier of respect.
Archetypes were a concept introduced by Carl Jung, who believed that they were models of people, behaviors, or personalities.
Archetypes, he suggested, were inborn tendencies that play a role in influencing human behavior.
Archetypes are successfully used in film, books, and in branding.
In branding the archetypal framework helps us build human-like brand personas.
And best brand personas are forged by identifying solidly with one—and only one—core archetype.
Companies do best when they are explicit about the archetype that is truest to their values, mission, and vision.
Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey a meaning that makes customers relate to your brand as if it was alive.
They help you define your brand, so that your customers will develop a relationship with it and care about it.
Brands who adapt the Carl Jung's archetype framework become very successful at branding.
The archetype framework identifies the 12 core archetypes.
I will describe each shortly and give you 48 examples: 3 examples in branding and 1 example in film.
So that you can relate and understand how to use archetypes to define your brand.
The Innocent is a positive personality with an optimistic outlook on life.
Their motto is:
Free to be you and me.
The Innocent also may be known as utopian, traditionalist, naive, mystic, saint, romantic, traditionalist, or a dreamer.
Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump depicts the Innocent character very well.
They often want to go back to nature and natural living.
They're honest and pure and they have no ill-will towards anyone.
Ultimately they want themselves and everyone else around them to be happy.
The Innocent's core desire is to experience paradise.
And they fear doing something wrong or bad that will provoke punishment.
In branding, the Innocent archetype is best for:
Famous brands that use the Innocent archetype:
Aveeno and Dove are both skin care products that promote natural ingredients and simplicity.
They also adopt a simplistic persona that represents women more naturally.
Whole foods are also about their natural, organic food that have been untouched.
The Sage is a seeker of truth, knowledge and wisdom.
The truth will set you free.
They're also known as expert, scholar, advisor, researcher, thinker, mentor or teacher.
They have a desire not only to understand the world, but also share that understanding with others.
They are lifelong learners that enjoy expressing their knowledge or having philosophical conversations.
In film there's no character that personifies the sage better than Yoda in Star Wars.
The Sage's core desire is the discovery of truth.
And they fear ignorance and being duped or misled.
In branding, the Sage archetype is best for:
The sage brand might aim to show the path to wisdom or to celebrate lifelong learning.
To connect with with them, emphasize that education is the path to wisdom and wisdom is where the answers lie.
Famous brands that use the Sage archetype:
Google has become the world's biggest online encyclopedia essentially where answers and information to any topic in the world can be found in seconds.
And though they rarely provide the answers of themselves they are the guide to their audience to find the answers that they need.
The Explorer has this thirst for discovery and to connect with nature.
You only get one life. Make it count.
The Explorer also may be known as the seeker, adventurer, wanderer, individualist or rebel.
Rugged environment is the one they feel most at home in.
They don't want to be fenced in and they often feel the confines of modern life weighing on them.
A true explorer in film would be Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones.
The Explorer's core desire is to find out who they are through exploring the world.
And they fear getting trapped, conforming, inner emptiness, nonbeing.
In branding, the Explorer archetype is best for:
To resonate with an explorer a brand might celebrate the journey or acknowledge of the modern confinements of society.
Brands communicating with an exciting, fearless or daring voice will evoke these adventurous emotions.
Famous brands that use the Explorer archetype:
Each one of these brands celebrates the outdoors and evoke the desires of adventure within their audiences.
Any outdoor activity such as camping, fishing, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, cave diving etc.
Promote the unknown as the land of the free, and challenge them to explore it with your brand, of course.
The Outlaw has the enticement of forbidden fruit.
Rules are meant to be broken.
They are romantic figures, ready to disrupt a society that has succumbed to tyranny, repression, conformity, or cynicism.
Certainly, we see the Outlaw in its most positive form in figures like Robin Hood or Zorro.
And in the most negative form — typical villains, like in Superman or Batman: Lex Luthor or the Joker.
The Outlaw's core desire is for: revenge or revolution.
And they fear being powerless, trivialized or inconsequential.
In branding, the Outlaw archetype is best for:
Famous brands that use the Outlaw archetype:
Harley Davidson is the typical outlaw brand and probably the most focused archetypal personality that there is.
They represent the outlaw persona to an absolute and appeal to the inner outlaw within their audience.
The Magician have dreams that other people see as impossible.
Anything can happen!
Magic is the technology for making dreams come true.
The Magician can be known as the visionary, catalyst, innovator, charismatic leader, mediator, shaman, healer, or medicine man or woman.
Sometimes the magic is just in the energy to persist.
Witness the remarkable success of the Energizer Bunny, which seems magical because it “keeps going and going.”
Magician brands include all those that foster “magical moments”, something that others see as impossible.
The Magician's core desire is to make dreams come true.
And they fear unanticipated negative consequences.
In branding, the Magician archetype is best for:
And any brand that delivers some kind of element of mystery or mystique.
Famous brands that use the Magician archetype:
Disney is the typical brand when it comes to all things magical.
The opening credits for their movies have a special place in all of our hearts.
The Hero wants to make the world a better place.
The motto is:
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Everything seems lost, but then the Hero rides over the hill and saves the day.
In every story the Hero triumphs over evil, adversity, or a major challenge, and in so doing, inspires us all.
The hero wants to save the day and to prove the worth to themselves as well as everyone else.
They always make efforts to rescue the victim or defend the underdog.
They're willing to work harder than everybody else to make it happen.
The Hero's core desire is to prove one’s worth through courageous action.
And they fear weakness, vulnerability or “wimping out”.
In branding, the Hero archetype is best for:
Famous brands that use the Hero archetype:
Nike is the stands out here, when it comes to adopting a persona and committing to it.
They've been using many athletes in their advertising, from Michael Jordan to Serena Williams, and the association with these athletes tap into the determination of their audience.
Nike inspires people through the achievements of their brand ambassadors.
Lover is all about being in a relationship with the people, the work, the experiences, the surroundings they love.
I only have eyes for you.
Lovers may be known as partners, friends, intimates, matchmakers, enthusiasts, connoisseurs, sensualists, spouses, team builders, harmonizers.
The lover archetype is also frequently used by filmmakers and Marilyn Monroe personifies the lover in Some Like It Hot.
And love pertains to all sorts of human love, from parental love, to friendship, to spiritual love, but it is most important to romantic love.
The Lover's core desire is to attain intimacy and experience sensual pleasure.
And they fear being alone, a wallflower, unwanted or unloved.
In branding, the Lover archetype is best for:
Any brand that implicitly promises beauty and sexual appeal is a Lover brand.
Famous brands that use the Lover archetype:
Victoria's Secret is the most obvious example here.
They're a lingerie brand so their messaging is loaded with that sensuality especially in their colors and imagery.
The Jester is all about having fun and living life in the moment.
If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.
The Jester also may be known as the Fool, trickster, joker, punster, entertainer, clown, prankster, or comedian.
Or basically anyone at all who loves to play or cut up.
In film probably nobody plays the Jester as well as Jim Carrey.
An optimist that is able to see good in every situation.
Jesters are young at heart and they seem to never grow up or become serious.
The Jester's core desire is to live in the moment and with full enjoyment.
And they fear boredom or being boring.
So if you want to resonate with a jester, promote good times and make them laugh.
In branding, the Jester archetype is best for:
Everybody likes to lough, so in general having some jester personality can be a memorable point of differentiation.
If you're able to connect with their audience through happiness and laughter, you can become a much loved brand.
Famous brands that use the Jester archetype:
The jester and humor in general are go-to for many men's brands.
Especially if the brands are associated in any way with having a good time.
The Everyman demonstrates the virtues of simply being an ordinary person, just like others.
All people are created equal.
The Everyman may also be known as the good old boy, the regular Joe, regular guy/gal, the common man or the solid citizen next door.
In film this archetype is probably best represented by Will Smith in The Pursuit fo Happiness.
They dress in ordinary clothes (even if they're quite wealthy) and they are easily put off by elitism in any form.
The Everyman's core desire is to connect with others, they want nothing more than just simply to belong.
And they fear standing out or being rejected as a result.
In branding, the Everyman archetype is best for:
Any brand that appeal to a humble man who strives for a little more than a simple life.
To appeal to an everyman you need to make them feel a sense of belonging.
Be friendly and down-to-earth in communication that doesn't exclude anyone.
Famous brands that use the Everyman archetype:
Regular guy/gal brands almost always have a down-home, no-nonsense quality to them that makes them seem genuine.
These brands are usually affordable when it comes to pricing and they just fill some basic basic need.
They often fill a void in market and they tend to be entry-level, low-cost for most industries.
Caregiver is has a selfless personality and is driven by the desire to protect and care for others.
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The Caregiver also may be known as the caretaker, altruist, saint, parent, helper, or supporter.
They simply take those who are in need under their wing, until they're stronger and able to take care of themselves.
Although they like their efforts to be recognized they don't like to be patronized.
A good example in movie might be Robin Williams in Patch Adams.
The Caregiver's core desire is to protect others from harm.
And they fear selfishness and ingratitude.
In branding, the Caregiver archetype is best for:
The character of the Caregiver archetype is a perfect fit for brands that help those in need.
A caregiver brand's aim is to make their customers feel secure, protected and cared for.
Famous brands that use the Caregiver archetype:
UNICEF and WWF are both non-for-profits and they exist to help those in need, one for people, the other for wildlife.
And although TOMS shoes is a profitable brand, the business model is based around helping people.
They provide a pair of shoes to someone in need for every pair that they sell.
The Ruler knows that the best thing to do to avoid chaos is to take control.
Power isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.
The Ruler is the boss, the leader, the corporate CEO, the parent, role model, manager, or anyone with a commanding and authoritative manner.
Films are absolutely packed with lives and deaths of rulers, but few are celebrated as the character Don Corleone in The Godfather.
Ruler archetype desires control above all and is quite a dominant personality.
Gaining and maintaining power is therefore a primary motivation.
Their actions carry a sense of this intimidation about them.
The Ruler's core desire is to create a successful family, company, or community.
And they fear chaos and being overthrown.
In branding, the Ruler archetype is best for:
To resonate with a ruler your brand should exert its leadership and demonstrate its superiority.
A commanding, refined and articulate brand voice would appeal to a ruler, as would messaging reaffirming their status.
Famous brands that use the Ruler archetype:
These are three different industries, but each of these brands use imagery, language and messaging that depict luxurious lifestyle.
Ruler brands tend to serve higher society and wealthier customers.
The Creator archetype is seen in any endeavor that taps into the human imagination.
They have passion for self-expression in material form.
If it can be imagined, it can be created.
The Creator may also be known as the artist, innovator, inventor, musician, writer, or dreamer.
The Creator always wants to create something new and original, something that wasn't there.
They fell constant need to express themselves with their individual talent.
They all have a vision and strive to bring that vision to life through their expression.
The Creator's core desire is to create something of enduring value.
And they fear having a mediocre vision or execution.
In branding, the Creator archetype is best for:
To appeal to a creator you have to celebrate the creative process as well as inspire self-expression.
Creator brands tend to have loyal followers, because they often inspire their customers to be better creatives themselves.
Famous brands that use the Creator archetype:
I use all of these three brands every single day.
Apple and Adobe I use throughout the day for work, and Lego I use with my nephew.
If you want to build a brand that makes instant connection with your audience — chose an archetype they will be attracted to.
It doesn't mean that you must have the exact same personality as your target, but rather the ones that attract each other.
Check out the 7th exercise from my strategy guide that will help you define your brand personality
Have any ideas about the archetype you could use for your brand? — Leave a comment below.
Hiring for a branding project? — Get a quote
This article was written based on the book "The Hero and The Outlaw"