Brand Archetypes: The Challenge To Find Your Brand's Meaning
Every day, we get bombarded with over 5,000 ads or brand messages vying to capture our attention.
Most of the messages get deflected by our unconscious minds and hold little relevance or appeal to our daily lives.
But at the same time, a select few of these messages get through to us, and we may even feel a sense of personal identity with them.
Sure, these brands might sell products that we like – but it’s also the storytelling behind the brand’s messaging that can resonate with our individual lives.
Whether we're talking about B2B or B2C businesses, both are faced with the same messaging and meaning challenge.
Two questions to kick off your thinking:
How does your business help your prospective customers?
And how do you get this message to them?
Founders, marketers, and management in both B2B or B2C environments work day in and day out with numbers and the tools of logic and analytics. Understandably, they have a hard time tapping into the inner layer where the more emotional, softer stuff of a brand's meaning comes together.
Brands, like heros, are complex and driven by numerous values.
Finding the single value that is the most true within an organization-- the one that both customers and employees will emotionally connect with-- is one of the most difficult challenges facing any brand.
You need the right tools to mirror the single most important value that distinguishes their brand.
Your brand's goal is to make your value distinguishable from your competitors while remaining top of mind to prospective and existing customers.
Distinguishing this value van be accomplished in many ways. But a process that is proven to work time and time again is called the Archetypal Analysis.
Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey a meaning that makes customers relate to a product as if it actually were alive in some way, they have a relationship with it and care about it.
– The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes
When you understand the power of brand archetypes, building your brand 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 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.
The graphic comes from a guide put together by Iconic Fox:
Each brand archetype slots in with the common narratives we see and experience regularly in our culture.
Which do you think Harley Davidson matches the best? What about a brand like Apple?
Brand Archetype Examples
Here are two example archetypes – also from Iconic Fox – that will help better demonstrate the concept. It’s worth looking closely at the brand voice, strategies, and values exemplified by each archetype, and thinking about how they connect to human storytelling and the types of characters we are familiar with throughout history.
We’ll start with “The Outlaw”…
About “The Outlaw”
James Dean. William Wallace. Hermoine Granger. Jack Sparrow.
These are all people or characters that see rules as things that are meant to be broken, especially in the name of liberation.
The Outlaw appeals to people and stories driven by independence, righteousness, change, and even revenge – and when used as a brand archetype, The Outlaw conveys a message that one can do better than the status quo.
They aren't afraid of radical ideas. They live to challenge the status quo, disrupt the norm, and live the kind of life most won't dare to try. The Outlaw has the capacity to be key to social change. Outlaws are honest, loud and proud; sometimes brash.
Harley Davidson is a fantastic example of a brand that fits with this archetype.
Next up is “The Creator”…
About “The Creator”
Tony Stark. Carrie Bradshaw. John Hammond. Nüwa.
These are all people or characters that see the value of creation of new things. The Creator appeals to those that value self-expression, vision, imagination, and inspiration.
The Creator archetype is one that is driven by the free flow of creativity–while also staying within certain parameters of control. In this delicate balance, we find different brands and companies that value and promote self-expression, imagination, and outside-the-box thinking
Apple is the iconic brand associated with this archetype, but Lego, Adobe, and Etsy could be considered good fits as well.
More Brand Archetypes
In a world with no shortage of media stimuli, brand archetypes enable marketers to pin down specific imagery and ideas that they know can make a direct impact with their audience. Archetypes are enduring, tried-and-true representations of the stories we have told ourselves for centuries, and that some would even say are entrenched in human nature.
For more on archetypes in marketing, including expanded definitions on the other 10 that we did not cover in depth here, I recommend reading the graphical guide put together by Iconic Fox.
Ok. So you've created some clarity around your brand archetype. What's next?
People are more likely to support something they believe in, right? You want to clearly define your WHY and build your brand around it.
Share your brands value and purpose for existing through customer stories. Your job is to control the narrative and distribute the story. Let your customers be the story.
Every business and brand is built upon promises. Promises of experience and value.
Promises to offer customers better results, better experiences and better solutions.
But how do you earn trust with your audience and convince them that your brand has all the answers they're looking for?
If someone has to tell you that you can trust them, how can you genuinely trust what they say?
Of course everyone will say they are the best.
Word-of-mouth marketing is the most powerful form of marketing because at its heart, it’s a third party endorsement. Third-party endorsements occur when someone other than your employees talk positively about you.
Amplify word-of-mouth marketing by sharing content with stories of impact.
Want to learn how to do this? Read here:
Archetypes are the heartbeat of a brand because they convey a meaning that make 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.
Word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective way to create trust for your brand. Amplify word-of-mouth marketing by building your brand around customer stories so that your prospective customers know WHY they should do business with you.
Interview your customers. Share their stories.