Uncover Your Brand’s True Nature Through Archetypes

We all know “people like that.” You know, Harley-riding rebels or Nike-wearing heroes or Chevy-driving regular guys. There are so many different types of people in the world — or just in our circle of friends for that matter — and each of us is motivated by something specific. To satisfy that inner motivation, we all employ different strategies. In the same way, so do brands.

Not unlike each and every person on the planet, brands are motivated by one of four things: Stability, Independence, Mastery or Belonging.* Can you identify with one of these motivations personally? What about your company? It gets a little murky at this base level of brand construction. However, one of these four motivations is, indeed, what drives you and brands forward.

Let’s say you long for stability — you want or need to make everything OK. Well, there are a few different strategies that can satisfy you:

  1. The Caregiver. Like a mama bear with her cubs, or a dedicated nurse by our bedside, this archetype creates stability through comfort. Think Johnson & Johnson, Campbell’s Soup or Bob Hope. A caregiver brand’s goal is to help others. Is it yours?
  2. The Ruler. When things get dicey, do you feel compelled to “grab the reigns” and control the situation? If so, you may be a ruler. Companies like Microsoft, Cadillac and CitiBank express themselves as large and in charge.
  3. The Creator. This archetype needs to create something of enduring value. This is the innovator, the entrepreneur or the writer. They make the world stable by giving form to a vision. Williams-Sonoma, Lego and Kinko’s are all creator brands.

But maybe you’re independent; maybe your brand represents paradise, deep understanding or free-spirited exploration. Try these archetypes on for size:

  1. The Innocent. Somewhere in this world, there are spots that still hold the magic and romance of a perfect world. We find these spots at Disneyland, or while drinking a Coca-Cola, or watching a Tom Hanks film.
  2. The Sage. From the Buddha to George Carlin to the New York Times, the Sage seeks to uncover the truth. These brands use quality intel to understand the world around them.
  3. The Explorer. Some brands need to see things for themselves. They discover themselves through adventure and experiencing life first-hand. These brands include Starbucks, Jeep and Homer’s “The Odyssey.”

Say those six archetypes just don’t seem like you. There are six more to try on for size. If you are more about making a mark on the world before you go, these characters could appeal to you:

  1. The Magician. Making dreams come true is the goal of this icon. Like a spa in a nice hotel, Harry Potter movies or MasterCard, this archetype transforms us into something better.
  2. The Rebel. Want to make some noise in the world? Why not tear down the status quo and blaze a new trail like Harley-Davidson, MTV or Jack Daniels. If your brand is revolutionary, it just might live here.
  3. The Hero. One of our most-loved icons seeks to help others and improve the world. If your customers identify themselves as good and moral, you could be in the same crowd as Nike, The Olympics or the Marines.

Then again, your inner motivation could be simply belonging with other people. Does your brand make connections on a personal level? Check these archetypes out:

  1. The Lover. Godiva Chocolate, Victoria’s Secret and Sofia Loren all desire intimacy and sensual pleasure. These brands represent the promise of sexual appeal and indulgence. Is your corporation up for some?
  2. The Jester. Let’s live in the moment with full enjoyment. Let’s have a great time and lighten up the world. If these are your thoughts, you may be like Pepsi, Ben and Jerry’s or Captain Morgan Rum.
  3. The Regular Guy/Gal. Throw on your Wrangler Jeans, hop in your Chevy pick-up and let’s go to the union hall. These brands are down-to-earth, friendly and without pretense.

Each of these 12 iconic types of people and brands wrap up who we all are here on Earth. Where do you fall personally? Where does your company or organization fall?

B+L employs the use of archetypes as a part of brand personality analysis within our Brand ALIVE process. It’s a fabulous way to manifest your brand soul. The stages of brand/customer relationship become a concise blueprint when you understand and embrace the singular voice of one of these archetypes. At least that’s this Hero’s opinion.

* Much of this information can be attributed to a wonderful book called The Hero and the Outlaw, Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes by Margret Mark and Coral S. Pearson.