12 Brand Archetypes – Introduction. Instantly Recognize What Your Brand Stands For.
Aragorn and Captain America, Dumbledore and Gandalf, Loki and Joker – these iconic characters from pop culture share a lot of common traits. You can probably easily categorize them as “the hero”, “the magician”, or “the jester”. Likewise, when creating a brand identity, you can leverage these universal patterns known as archetypes. In our Engagement Designers’ expertise, 12 brand archetypes prove to be an extremely useful tool for capturing the essence of a brand’s message in an intuitive way for stakeholders to grasp and effortless for audiences to connect with.
By reading this article regarding 12 brand archetypes, you will learn the following:
- What is the history behind the archetypes?
- How to benefit from them in branding?
- What are the 12 brand archetypes?
- How did we at hero/dot use the 12 brand archetypes theory in our rebranding?
Tale As Old As Time: The History Behind Brand Archetypes
So what is the concept of archetypes? Carl Gustav Jung, a psychoanalyst and student of Sigmund Freud, argued that archetypes belong to the collective unconscious and remain a significant component of human nature. These universal patterns and behaviour predispositions appeared in most cultures since the dawn of time. They are heavily represented in tales, myths, legends and symbols. Today, we instantly and intuitively recognize them, even without specialized knowledge.
What are archetypes?
Archetypes are recurring patterns of characters that have existed in stories since the beginning of human communication. These patterns are so widespread that they are easily recognizable to each individual. Jung has described them as:
“Forms or images of a collective nature which occur practically all over the earth as constituents of myths and, at the same time, as individual products of the unconscious”.
However, it is a common misconception that Jung created the 12 brand archetypes theory we know and use today. In fact, Jung has never specified a complete list of archetypes. Striving to understand the human psyche, he remained strongly focused on:
- The Self,
- The Shadow,
- The Anima/Animus,
- and The Persona.
Many scholars have contributed to the archetype model. Still, it was Carol S. Pearson who defined the 12 archetypes in her work "The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes". From then on, the idea of archetypes has become increasingly popular beyond the realms of psychology and storytelling. Nowadays, it's commonly used in branding to describe a brand identity using terms that are easy for anyone to comprehend.
Just as Carol S. Pearson has said,
“Our psychics recognize them. So if you’re [going to] use them for branding, and you’re a global company that is international, it is really handy if everybody recognizes that archetype. (...) It is a meaning structure that the human psyche understands. ”
Why Are 12 Brand Archetypes Useful?
In our Engagement Design team's experience, brand archetypes are extremely useful when collaborating with clients. They often do not have a background in marketing. Since they are self-explanatory, we can effectively interview the stakeholders and identify what the brand represents and stands for.
The concept of brand archetypes is comprehensible to all, regardless of their marketing knowledge. They embody both the brand and its target audience, making it easier to connect with customers in a meaningful way.
Use the 12 brand archetypes to identify:
- the core desire of its target audience,
- the message behind the brand and its enduring meaning,
- the core principles of the brand strategy,
- the brand voice (or tone of voice),
- the brand personality traits.
Archetypes are also a powerful tool in building brand recognition, both internally and externally. In the hero/dot rebranding process, it was crucial for every employee to grasp the concept fully. To achieve this, we tapped into the flexibility and universality of archetypes to redefine our brand.
12 Brand Archetypes
12 Brand Archetypes Explained
Now, you know the history behind the 12 brand archetypes theory and the advantages of relying on this model when crafting a brand identity for the client. It's time we delve deep into the characteristics of each type. If you stay with us till the end, you'll discover the following:
- brand archetype personality traits,
- motivations behind brand strategies,
- examples of characters from pop culture that embody the archetype,
- examples of popular brands,
- and examples of industries associated with the archetype.
Generally speaking, the 12 brand archetypes can be divided into 4 categories based on the core desire:
- Explore spirituality: the innocent, the sage & the explorer.
- Leave a legacy: the rebel, the magician & the hero.
- Pursue connection: the lover, the jester & the everyman.
- Provide structure: the caregiver, the ruler & the creator.
The Innocent Brand Archetype – Inspiring Positivity in Uncertain World
Forrest Gump is an optimistic, empathetic, and kind character who believes everything will work out in the end, even in a complex and challenging world. Similarly, the innocent archetype represents our desire for happiness and safety, grounded in the belief that the world is good.
Innocent brands like Coca-Cola, Hershey's, or Innocent Drinks aim to project a positive image by creating a delightful brand experience supported by light-hearted messaging. By focusing on the good things, these brands evoke a sense of comfort and invite us to relive simpler times reminiscent of a happier world.
To represent the innocent brand archetype, your brand is:
- maintaining a positive, optimistic, and hopeful attitude,
- prioritizing quality time spent with loved ones like family or friends,
- standing behind strong moral values by promoting social responsibility,
- communicating in a genuine, kind, and straightforward manner, often inspiring positive feelings and a sense of nostalgia.
If your brand is associated with natural products, food and beverages, children's products, non-profit organizations, or churches, it is more likely to represent the innocent brand archetype.
The Sage Brand Archetype – Trusted Expert in The Field
Another archetype from the 12 brand archetypes list is Sage. Yoda, the beloved Jedi Master and Luke Skywalker's mentor from the Star Wars franchise is renowned for his profound wisdom, mastery of the Force, and expertise in lightsaber combat. Similarly, sage brands are associated with knowledge and learning; customers often turn to them for guidance.
Brands like Google, Duolingo, or (more recently) OpenAI are trusted and respected for their insights, similar to Yoda's reputation. Sage brands aim to inspire trust and become an authority in their field by providing accurate and objective information, remaining reliable sources of knowledge, and balancing informativeness with being approachable and engaging. Their customers are likely to be lifelong learners with open, curious minds.
To represent the sage brand archetype, your brand is:
- knowledgeable, wise, trustworthy, authoritative, and informative,
- dedicated to seeking unbiased truth and relevant information,
- committed to sharing industry insights and educating their target audience,
- communicating clearly and concisely, using language that is easy to understand for the target audience, without compromising accuracy or depth of information.
If your brand is associated with science, healthcare, education, publishing, or research, it is more likely to represent the sage brand archetype.
The Explorer Brand Archetype – New Journeys to Discovery
Indiana Jones is an iconic explorer and archaeologist characterized by a strong desire for adventure, freedom, and the thrill of discovery. Much like Indiana, the explorer brand archetype offers its customers the opportunity to break free from the ordinary and experience an exciting voyage.
Brands, such as Airbnb, Jeep and GoPro embrace the fascination with freedom, encouraging customers to explore the world around them. Threading new and exciting paths requires explorer brands to remain bold, daring, and willing to take risks. In fact, the desire to leave behind what is familiar sometimes stems from a need to escape reality. To inspire customers to follow in their footsteps and embrace the spirit of adventure, these brands need to spark audiences' imagination.
To represent the explorer archetype, your brand is likely to:
- be adventurous, free-spirited, and passionate about exploration.
- be willing to take risks and be open to change, always looking for new ways to grow and evolve.
- offer unique and exciting products, services, or experiences that encourage customers to leave what is known behind them.
- communicate in an adventurous and inspiring tone of voice, often featuring bold imagery, daring language, and a sense of excitement that encourages customers to step out of their comfort zones.
If your brand is associated with travel, automotive, technology or outdoor sports industries, it is more likely to represent the explorer brand archetype.
The Rebel Brand Archetype – Defying the Status Quo
Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the young adult series The Hunger Games, is rebellious, and belligerent, and will stop at nothing to end the Capitol's unjust and oppressive rule. Similarly, rebel brands are all about defining the status quo and fighting for liberation.
Brands like Harley-Davidson, Diesel or Netflix are not afraid to question norms and even shake things up in the industry due to their sense of individuality, independence, and counterculture. Their customers likely identify with their rebellious spirit and aspire to embody it. Oftentimes, they create a community or a tribe of diverse and alternative-thinking individuals who are encouraged to embrace their nonconformist way of living.
To represent the rebel brand archetype, your brand is likely to:
- form a bold, rebellious, edgy presence through your visual identity, brand, and unconventional marketing tactics.
- aim to disrupt the market and question the industry standards with your innovative products, services, or business models.
- align with social movements by advocating for justice and freedom.
- promote authenticity through your messaging and create a space for their community to embrace their uniqueness and express their truest self.
If your brand is associated with industries such as fashion and entertainment or perhaps is an independent brewery or a technology startup, it is more likely to represent the rebel brand archetype.
The Magician Brand Archetype – Dreams Do Come True
The Fellowship of the Ring couldn't have asked for a more powerful ally and a wiser guide than Gandalf the White. Much like this charismatic wizard who transformed from Gandalf the Grey after a dangerous encounter with the Balrog, the magician brand archetype embodies metamorphosis and mystery.
Magician brands, such as Disney, Tesla, and Nintendo, are admired for their ability to make dreams come true. That's because they offer a vision of our world full of wonder and limitless possibilities. In other words, they possess the power to captivate their customers' imagination and spark curiosity.
To represent the magician brand archetype, your brand is:
- offering your audience a transformational experience through immersive events, interactive products, or captivating storytelling.
- guiding the form of insights, resources, tools for personal growth, or encouragement to tap into one's hidden potential.
- introducing unconventional solutions and pushing industry boundaries of what's even possible.
- positioning yourself as a charismatic expert in your field, known for your specialized knowledge and a captivating way of sharing it.
If your brand is associated with technology, electronics, film, futuristic transportation, or healthcare advancements, it is more likely to represent the magician brand archetype.
The Hero Brand Archetype – Be Your Own Hero
Geralt of Rivia, known as the Witcher, is a character-driven by a strong moral code. He's not afraid to selflessly make sacrifices in the name of justice. Geralt owns his extraordinary skills to his rigorous Witcher training. Likewise, the hero archetype will go to great lengths to achieve mastery and overcome challenges.
Hero brands, such as Nike, Red Bull, and Marvel, strive for achievement, even at the expense of taking some risks. They are characterized by courage, determination, sincerity and responsibility. Heroes prove their worth by displaying mastery and motivating others to be their best version.
To represent the hero brand archetype, your brand tends to:
- exhibit courage and resilience in the face of unexpected challenges.
- always look for opportunities to grow, even if it means going beyond your comfort zone.
- motivate your audience to strive for greatness and help them uncover their full potential.
- strive to make a positive impact on the world, whether it's through charity, activism, or impactful messaging.
If your brand is associated with sports, automotive, energy drinks, coaching, or training programs, it is more likely to represent the hero archetype.
The Lover Brand Archetype – Follow Your Desires
Rose DeWitt Bukater, the heroine of Titanic, represents the lover archetype, seeking emotional connection and pleasure. She's depicted as a character willing to defy the social expectations placed upon her to pursue her romantic desires. Likewise, the lover brand archetype emphasizes the importance of following your heart.
Lover brands like Victoria's Secret, Chanel, and Raffaello are likely to create intimate moments. They embody passion, desire, and seduction. Their success lies in their emotional appeal, as they master the art of igniting their customers' desires and invoking a sense of indulgence.
To represent the lover brand archetype, your brand tends to:
- understand the power of storytelling and visual appeal, creating an emotional, sensory experience through your communication, packaging, and product design.
- celebrate human connection, love, and togetherness and creates intimate moments through your product or service.
- position yourself as an exclusive brand, sometimes creating an aura of luxury, desirability, and indulgence.
- offer personalization, tailored experiences, and excellent customer service.
If your brand is associated with fashion, beauty, wellness, dating, or high-end retreats, it is more likely to represent the lover archetype.
The Jester Brand Archetype – Wisecracking Joker
Deadpool is the anti-hero protagonist of a Marvel Comics movie of the same name. During the action, he cracks jokes, breaks the fourth wall, and acts like a traditional superhero would never act. Just like Deadpool, the Jester brand aims to bring the world more laughter, entertainment and joy.
Brands like Old Spice, M&M's, and Dollar Shave Club exhibit classic characteristics of a jester personality, including humour, wit, and a playful spirit. Their audiences adore them because of their unconventional approach, originality, and light-heartedness. However, the jester archetype doesn't use humour only to poke fun at things. They often cleverly shed light on social issues, challenge conventions, and aim to bring positive change.
To represent the jester brand archetype, your brand is more likely to:
- adopt an unconventional approach to brand communication, embracing originality, non-traditional advertisement, and subversive messaging.
- encourage interaction between the members of their community and invite them to participate in contests, challenges and campaigns actively.
- provide social commentary on relevant topics – of course, humorously and cleverly.
- adapt to changing conditions, stay in touch with the latest trends, and stay relevant through the years.
If your brand is associated with entertainment, gaming, comedy, snacks, or novelty items, it is more likely to represent the jester archetype.
The Everyman Brand Archetype – We're Just Like You
The Everyman archetype hides under many names: Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, Jim Halpert form The Office, or Morty from Rick and Morty. What connects all those characters is that they serve as a stand-in for the audience they can project onto. The Everyman archetype takes a similar role, allowing customers to easily identity with the brand due to their friendly, authentic and relatable characteristics.
Brands like IKEA, McDonald's and Target represent values like reliability, simplicity, and affordability. They tend to provide practical solutions for a fair price. Adopting down-to-earth communication and aesthetic makes them easy to connect with everyday people. For those reasons, the Everyman is probably the most universal of all 12 brand archetypes.
To represent the everyman brand archetype, your brand is more likely to:
- be customer-focused and prioritize the needs and preferences of your target audience, often through customer feedback, loyalty programs, or affordable pricing.
- prefer simplicity in your messaging and adopt a straightforward and easy-to-understand tone.
- focus on practicality and functionality in your product design or service.
- foster a sense of comfort, belonging, and familiarity to establish a connection with your customers.
If your brand is associated with retail, fast food, grocery, home decor, or healthcare industries, it is more likely to represent the Everyman brand archetype.
The Caregiver Brand Archetype – Sharing is Caring
Mrs Weasley from the Harry Potter franchise is a nurturing mother figure to her children and Harry himself. Supportive and protective, time and time again, she demonstrates herlove to those she holds dear. Similarly, the caregiver archetype is caring, compassionate, and always eager to offer a helping hand.
Some caregiver brand archetype examples include WWF, UNICEF, and Pampers. What they have in common is reliability, nurturing character, and an empathetic approach. Customers trust their promises and seek support and security in the caregiver brand's products or services.
To represent the caregiver brand archetype, your brand is:
- promoting physical and emotional well-being through helpful tips, educational content and reassuring messaging.
- creating safe and supportive spaces for their community to share their experiences and connect over shared values.
- relying on testimonials, success stories, and relatable storytelling in their marketing strategy.
- engaging in philanthropy and other CSR activities to give back to society.
If your brand is associated withindustries like healthcare, childcare, animal welfare, non-profit, or social services, it is more likely to represent the caregiver archetype.
The Ruler Brand Archetype – A Charismatic Leader
Don Draper, the lead character of the Mad Men TV series, perfectly embodies the ruler archetype. Confident and charismatic, he strives for total control over his professional and personal lives. As the corporate ladder of Sterling Cooper advertising agency climbs, he demonstrates strong leadership skills, strategic thinking and commitment to hard work.
Similarly, ruler brands, such as Rolex, BMW, and Louis Vuitton, represent the ideal of leadership, authority, and control. By always striving for excellence and perfection, they create a sense of superiority, luxury and prestige. As such, ruler brands present their customers with an aspirational lifestyle vision.
To represent the ruler brand archetype, your brand is more likely to:
- emphasize your superior quality, beautiful craftsmanship, and impeccable attention to detail.
- portray yourself as a charismatic industry leader known for your expertise, knowledge and hard work.
- highlight your history and legacy or, in case you haven't established those yet, a commitment to the value of tradition and timelessness.
- focus on delivering consistently reliable brand experiences.
If your brand is associated with luxury products, high-end fashion, the financial sector, real estate, or hotels, it is more likely to represent the ruler archetype.
The Creator Brand Archetype – Creativity and Intelligence Combined
Tony Stark rose to money and fame thanks to his brilliance as an inventor and engineer. His Iron Man suit is his greatest achievement in pushing the boundaries of technology and genius problem-solving. As such, he's a classic example of the creator archetype, who uses his intellect to bring visionary ideas to life.
Some creator brand archetype examples include Apple, Adobe, and LEGO. These brands value innovation, imagination, and self-expression. Their main goal is to realize their grand visions and prove their worth through creativity, quality and out-of-the-box thinking. This makes them the perfect role model for their customers to aspire to.
To represent the creator brand archetype, your brand is more likely to:
- encourage self-expression by providing platforms, tools, and resources to help individuals explore their creativity and uniqueness.
- strive for innovation and invest in up-and-coming talents that can bring new, exciting ideas to the table.
- promote collaboration among their community by allowing them to connect and share ideas easily.
- create impactful and immersive experiences, often through unconventional storytelling.
If your brand is part of the creative, software and technology, music, or advertising industry, it is more likely to represent the creator archetype.
Case Study: Hero/dot Rebranding
During our rebranding process, the first objective was to discover our own brand archetype as a way of assuring that all other elements of the brand identity align with our core message. The hero felt like a natural choice for our main archetype, as it even appears in our company’s name. However, we followed Engagement Design's best practices and empirically verified our gut feeling. After several surveys and one long workshop with the stakeholders, we could finally say that hero/dot is officially a hero! Heroes prove their worth by taking on challenges, motivating others and achieving success, which perfectly aligns with hero/dot’s brand values – courage, dedication, and responsibility.
However, just as people can play multiple roles simultaneously (e.g., caregiver for their child and a sage as a university lecturer), brands can be identified with more than one archetype. While the main archetype represents our identity as a hero character, the secondary archetype, the creator, specifies what that hero aspires towards. We bring innovation and creativity to our services by combining the talents of creators in technology, design, and marketing. This also brings added flexibility to the values of our hero/dot archetype.
12 brand archetypes – Conclusion
Brand archetypes provide a powerful framework for crafting compelling brand identities. Now, you can leverage those universally recognisable patterns after acquainting yourself with all 12 brand archetypes. Brand archetypes will also help you communicate with stakeholders, craft your brand strategy, or send a message that resonates with your target audience.
If you're looking for a hero who can help your company uncover its full potential, contact us today! Whether you're starting a new brand or rebranding an existing one, we're happy to embark with you on your brand's archetypical journey.
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